Southeast soccer eyes big weekend

Friday, October 26, 2007
Southeast Missouri State's Margie Schaeffler kicked the ball past Tennessee Tech's Michelle McAlarmen in the first half Oct. 7 at Houck Stadium. (Fred Lynch)

OVC title is within reach as the Redhawks approach their final two conference games.

The Ohio Valley Conference regular-season soccer title and host site for the OVC tournament is expected to be decided in Cape Girardeau on Sunday.

But first Southeast Missouri State has to take care of business tonight.

The Redhawks and Samford appear headed on a collision course when Southeast hosts the Bulldogs at 2 p.m. Sunday in its regular-season finale.

Samford (12-3, 7-0) leads the OVC with 21 points, while Southeast (9-2-2, 6-0-1) is second with 19 points, based on three points for a win and one point for a tie in league play.

For Sunday's game to mean all that it should, however, the Redhawks have to make sure they don't overlook Jacksonville State in today's 7 p.m. senior night game at Houck Stadium.

Jacksonville State (4-10-1, 2-4-1) is tied for seventh in the 10-team OVC with seven points, but the Gamecocks are still alive for a top-six finish and a spot in the conference tournament.

"I don't think we'll overlook them, since they beat us last year down there and it's senior night," Southeast coach Heather Nelson said. "I don't think the seniors will let us look past this game."

If the Redhawks happen to stumble against the Gamecocks and either tie or lose, a Samford win at Eastern Illinois today would lock up the OVC crown for the Bulldogs before they even get to Cape Girardeau.

But as long as the Redhawks take care of things tonight, then beating Samford would give them their first OVC regular-season title since 2002 and make sure the semifinals and finals of the league tournament will be played at Houck Stadium.

"Sunday should be huge," Nelson said. "It would be nice to be back at home for the tournament."

Sunday's game will pit the programs that have ruled OVC regular-season women's soccer since early this decade.

Southeast captured championships in 2001 and 2002. Samford joined the league in 2003 and has won every title since then.

Because all Samford athletic teams will depart the OVC for the Southern Conference after this school year, the Bulldogs have a chance to make it a perfect five-for-five before they exit.

Southeast placed fourth in the OVC's regular season last year, but won the conference tournament for the first time to earn the program's first NCAA tournament berth.

The Redhawks can finish no worse than second in the final OVC standings, meaning they won't have to participate in a conference tournament play-in game and will advance directly to the Nov. 9 semifinals whether they host the event or not.

Southeast had a seven-game winning streak -- the second-longest in program history -- snapped Sunday in a 0-0 tie at Tennessee-Martin.

Southeast freshman Ashley Runion is the OVC leader in goals per game as she has a team-best nine goals to go along with four assists.

Runion and sophomore teammate Courtney Alexander are tied for the conference lead in points with 22 each. Alexander has eight goals and six assists.

Southeast senior keeper Lindsay Pickering leads the OVC in shutouts with five, in goals-against average (0.76) and in save percentage (.877).

Along with Pickering and Lacopo, other seniors who will be honored in pre-game ceremonies tonight are Lauren Costello, Megan Matter, Margie Schaeffler, Blair Schuppan and Molli Beard.

"They have been absolutely fantastic " Nelson said of her seniors. "It will be mixed emotions for me because I just don't want to see it come to an end.

"Hopefully we can keep it going for a while."


* Southeast is billing tonight's game as "Black Out Night." Fans are encouraged to wear black.

* All fans who bring a canned food item will receive free admission to the games tonight and Sunday.

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