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Redhawks find first win
The Southeast Missouri State soccer team wasn't just hungry for a win. The Redhawks were in desperation mode.
"We needed a win really bad to get our confidence up again," sophomore forward Erin Shulman said.
Smiles abounded on the home sideline as the Redhawks finally notched their first victory of the year Sunday night at Houck Stadium.
Southeast finished its season-opening four-game homestand by rallying past Drake 2-1.
"We definitely needed the win," senior forward Courtney Luehmann said. "For one, to boost our confidence, and two, to get our season going in the right direction.
The Redhawks (1-2-1) scored just one goal during their first three games -- a 2-1 loss to Illinois State, a scoreless tie with Saint Louis and a 1-0 loss to Missouri-Kansas City.
"They were frustrating," Shulman said about the opening three contests. "We weren't connecting very well.
"We finally came out ready to play, ready for a win."
It wasn't all that apparent early that the Redhawks were ready to play because Drake dominated the first part of the game.
The Bulldogs (2-2) peppered Southeast with shots and scored just six minutes into the contest when a free kick deflected off a Redhawks defender into the net.
"Kind of a weird, unfortunate thing," Southeast associate head coach Paul Nelson said.
Southeast withstood Drake's early barrage and tied things with a little more than 23 minutes left in the half after Shulman was taken down in the 18-yard box on a good scoring opportunity.
The Redhawks, awarded a penalty kick, turned to Shulman. The 2011 Ohio Valley Conference freshman of the year scored her first goal of the season, depositing the ball in the right corner.
"It was an easy goal, but you work hard to get the goal," Shulman said about her initial play that led to the PK.
Senior keeper Renee Kertz, Southeast's four-year softball standout playing her first season of college soccer, preserved the 1-1 tie.
Kertz, starting her third straight game in the nets, made a sensational diving save of a point-blank shot with about 15 minutes left before halftime.
Kertz made all six of her saves in the opening period when Southeast was outshot 9-6.
"She made one great save," Nelson said. "We were a little bit lax in the first half in certain situations."
Southeast controlled the play much more in the second half and netted the game-winner with a little more than 30 minutes remaining.
Luehmann, a Notre Dame Regional High School graduate in her first year of playing forward, blasted a shot from about 15 yards out.
The play started when senior defender Meg Herndon sent a cross toward the middle. It was deflected but went right to Luehmann. Herndon received an assist.
"It was good work from the whole team," Luehmann said about her first goal this year. "It rolled back to me, and I just placed it."
Luehmann, in her fourth season as a key contributor for the Redhawks, has adjusted to her new position.
"Courtney has done an outstanding job given the fact she's never played forward before," Nelson said.
Drake put a shot off the goal post with just under 24 minutes left but never seriously threatened again.
"Our effort was through the roof tonight. We stepped up so much in that area," Luehmann said.
The teams finished with 12 shots apiece after Southeast had a 6-3 second-half advantage. The Redhawks took seven of the game's nine corner kicks.
"It's exciting for them. They were trying to find their way," Nelson said. "I thought they really performed well ... not that we've arrived."
Nelson emphasized that the Redhawks hadn't been that far off in their first three games.
"We've put parts of games together where we've looked decent," Nelson said. "We have played very tough teams."
Southeast will now hit the road for its next three games beginning Friday against Louisville at the Kentucky tournament. The Redhawks face the host squad Sunday.