Miami draws Mississippi State in season opener

Defender Emma Tucker dribbling the ball in a match against Notre Dame on September 23, 2021.
Defender Emma Tucker dribbling the ball in a match against Notre Dame on September 23, 2021. Photo credit: Jared Lennon

University of Miami women’s soccer opened its 2022 campaign on Thursday night with a 0-0 draw against Mississippi State at Cobb Stadium. Despite neither team getting the win, Hurricane netminder Melissa Dagenais still came out on top.

The senior from Quebec notched 11 saves, including eight in the first half, and fended off 26 total shot attempts. Her most impressive stop came in the 27th minute, when she leapt through the air to deflect a ball that was curving toward the upper right corner.

“Personally, I want to be the top goalkeepers in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and build upon what I did last year to help this team win as many games as possible,” Dagenais said to miamihurricanes.com before the match.

On a night where Miami’s offense struggled mightily — it was outshot 26-4 — Dagenais’ sharp play was imperative. The ‘Canes were also undisciplined at times, racking up 14 fouls to Mississippi State’s seven.

However, something clicked for the Hurricanes late in the second half, leading to a surprising shift in momentum.

Miami picked up the pace and played aggressively, matching the Bulldogs’ own approach. The ‘Canes tallied three corner kicks within the last 25 minutes and had an excellent chance to score when a cross narrowly missed team captain Jackie Koerwitz in the penalty box.

Mississippi State also had a good scoring opportunity towards the end, with a free kick that both teams scrambled for in the box, leading to a shot that hit the post.

Watching all the action unfold were the energetic Hurricanes faithful, who showed up in the sweltering Coral Gables heat to get their eyes on a new-look Miami team that featured five freshmen and two transfers.

“All seven of them make the team better in different ways,” Miami head coach Sarah Barnes said to miamihurricanes.com. “They’ve come in and created a more competitive environment. They’re competing head-to-head with everyone in their positional group. They’ve been a significant addition to our program and really match well with our returning players.

Two of those freshmen made an impact on Thursday night, as Emma Pidding and Chloe O’Neill started at left and right wing, respectively.

After an abysmal one-win season in 2020, the ‘Canes earned three more victories last season, including a statement win against the University of Florida and their first ever road win at Boston College.

Miami hopes to continually improve this season, and shutting out an unfamiliar Southeastern Conference (SEC) opponent – the teams had only met once in 2000 prior to Thursday – is not a bad start.

“Everyone expects us to win one or two more games or for us not to take a big jump, but we’re going to prove a lot of people wrong,” Koerwitz said to miamihurricanes.com. “We have our goals and we won’t be stopped.”

The Hurricanes face another SEC foe on Saturday when they take on Alabama, who finished one game above .500 in 2021. Kickoff is set for 5:00 p.m.