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Fresh faces deliver in Redhawks' opener
Nearly 40 percent of the Southeast Missouri State women's soccer team consists of freshmen.
Two of those youngsters scored in their collegiate debuts, helping the Redhawks win Sunday's season opener.
Stephanie Palmer got the tying goal in the second half while Signe Novak netted the sudden-death overtime winner as Southeast slipped past visiting Belmont 2-1.
"It's really exciting," Novak said.
After the 90 minutes of regulation ended 1-1, that score held through the first 10-minute overtime and much of the final 10-minute extra period.
But just when it looked like the Redhawks and Bruins from Nashville, Tenn., might have to settle for a tie, Novak came through.
First a Belmont defender failed to clear a ball thanks to a nice effort from Southeast sophomore Ali Bauer, who went to the ground to hold the ball in Belmont's end.
The ball settled toward Novak, who blasted a shot that found the net from about 25 yards out with just 1:55 remaining. Bauer received an assist.
"They tried to clear it but Ali was able to be on the ground and stop it," said Novak, a graduate of St. Dominic High School in O'Fallon, Mo.
Palmer, from Marion, Ill., tied the contest with 22:29 left in the second half on an unassisted goal from about 20 yards out.
"I was looking to stretch the field, then I saw I was only 18 yards out. I went for it," Palmer said. "It's awesome."
Novak, who scored one of the Redhawks' three goals during their two exhibition wins, and Palmer are among Southeast's nine freshmen.
"They're excellent," said Southeast coach Heather Nelson of Novak and Palmer in particular, and her entire freshmen class in general.
Those nine rookies are part of a 23-player roster that features a mix of returning experience and youth. The group as a whole has Nelson excited.
"There's not really a big drop-off between our starters and reserves," said Nelson, who used 17 players Sunday. "And we still have three players out [with injuries] who should be back soon."
Southeast controlled much of the action and finished with a decisive 28-13 edge in shots.
"We created more offensive chances than we have in a few years to be quite honest," Nelson said. "I felt like we dominated the overall possession."
The Redhawks even had a goal called back. Graduate student Lauren Bozesky, a transfer from Saint Louis University, scored early in the second half off a pass from senior Ashley Runion.
But officials ruled that Runion failed to keep the ball from going past the end line before she fed Bozesky.
"The goal that was called back was exciting," Nelson said.
Belmont scored the first goal that counted, taking advantage of a Southeast defensive miscue in its own end.
Erica Carter was all alone after a turnover and beat Southeast freshman keeper Ashton Aubuchon from point-blank range.
"We set up their goal, and they capitalized," Nelson said.
Aubuchon was credited with three saves, her best one coming late in the first overtime on a close-range shot into her body.
Nelson was pleased with the way the season started against a Belmont squad that is the defending Atlantic Sun Conference co-champion.
"They're a strong team, and it was a good first game for us," Nelson said.
Southeast returns to action Friday, playing Alabama A&M at the Racer Classic in Murray, Ky.