PENSACOLA, Fla. – The No.10 seed LSU Soccer team (8-7-4, 3-5-2 SEC) fell in the first round of the 2023 SEC Tournament on penalty kicks to No. 7 Kentucky (9-3-6, 3-3-4 SEC) by a margin of 4-2 on Sunday afternoon inside Ashton Brosnaham Soccer Complex.

The match went to penalty shootouts after 90 minutes of regular duration and 20 minutes of overtime finished goalless. The goalkeepers were a huge reason for the scoreless battle as LSU’s Mollee Swift finished with five saves while Kentucky’s Marz Josephson denied the Tigers six times.

“We are obviously really disappointed to lose on penalties. It’s a tough way to exit any tournament,” head coach Sian Hudson said. “We had some big moments in the game, in particular the goal we scored that got called back for offsides, a good chance for Rammie Noel from a slip ball by Taylor Dobles, Ida’s shot from the top of the box and also a header for Baker when she got rattled by the keeper.” 

“I was proud of the team’s fight to the death and we will prepare in the hopes we get a bid into the NCAA tournament next week.”

Kentucky took the first shot on goal in the 17th minute as Ulfsadottir tested Swift for the first time on the day, but the shot was parried away by the keeper. The save marked Swift’s 300th in her career with the Purple & Gold. Swift collected another save not even two minutes later as she denied a shot from Grace Phillbots to keep it 0-0 in the match.

LSU forward Taylor Dobles took the Tigers’ only shot in the first half in the 24th minute, but the attempt went wide left. The first half ended scoreless with neither team able to find a solid chance on goal. Kentucky took six shots, with two of those being on goal, compared to LSU’s one. 

LSU came out on fire in the second half as forward Rammie Noel took their first opportunity on goal in the 48th minute. Noel received a beautiful pass from Dobles through the Wildcat defenders that put her in scoring position inside the box. Noel took a shot that was blocked by Kentucky keeper Marz Josephson. Dobles attempted to create a goal out of the rebound, but the shot went high over the goal.

Kentucky went down to ten players in the 55th minute after Maggy Henschler picked up her second yellow card of the match with a foul on the edge of the box on Danielle Shannon. From that free kick, Ida Hermannsdottir stepped up to take the kick and sent a strong shot on goal that was collected by Josephson.

Despite the numbers advantage, LSU could not break through Josephson and the Kentucky defense. Defender Jocelyn Ollivierre notched a shot on goal in the 66th minute that was saved while Mollie Baker was denied in the 86th and 90th minutes to keep the scoreline even at 0-0. 

Swift picked up a save in the 82nd minute on a shot from Tanner Strickland, the Wildcats’ best chance in the second half. After 90 minutes, it was 0-0 and the first match of the SEC Tournament went to overtime.

The Tigers piled on the pressure in overtime, but could not find the back of the net. Kelsey Major had a shot on goal in the 97th minute that was denied by Strickland, but that was about it for the first period of overtime.

The second period of overtime saw the Tigers come close to a game-winner on two separate occasions. Baker had a header inside the box in the 105th minute that narrowly went wide left of the goal and Hermannsdottir had a shot from outside the box in the 109th minute, but she could not get it on frame. The second period of overtime finished scoreless and the match headed to a penalty shootout.

Kentucky opened the penalty shootout with Ulfarsdottir slotting a ball into the bottom-right corner to take the lead. The Tigers tied it up on the next kick when Hermansdottir slotted the ball to the left corner. 

Phillpots stepped up next for Kentucky and made it 2-1 with a strong shot to the right side that sent Swift the wrong way. Baker then stepped up to the penalty spot for LSU, but her shot down the middle was denied by the trailing legs of Josephson to give Kentucky the lead after two rounds.

Sam Halligan stepped up to the spot to open round three for Kentucky, but her shot to the bottom left corner was parried away by Swift to keep the score 2-1 and give the Tigers a chance to tie it back up. Jordan Johnson’s shot to the right of the goal, however, was saved by Josephson and it remained 2-1 in the shootout after three rounds.

Maddie Eastman opened round four and made it 3-1 with a shot to the bottom-left corner. Sage Glover stepped up to the spot to take a must-make penalty and converted with a bottom-left ground shot that beat the goalkeeper on pace.

Kentucky’s all-time leading goalscorer in program history Jordan Rhodes stepped up in round five with a chance to win it and she did just that with a powerful shot into the bottom-left corner to make it 4-2 in the shootout and book the Wildcats’ spot in the second round of the SEC Tournament.

LSU outshot Kentucky by a margin of 17-12, with the Tigers having six shots on target compared to the Wildcats’ five. Despite having a player advantage due to Kentucky’s red card in the 55th minute, the Tigers could not find the back of the net in both regular time and overtime.

The Tigers will now wait for the selection show for the 2023 NCAA Tournament, which will take place on Monday, November 6.

(Summary via LSU Athletics)