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Inspired Southeast Missouri State soccer team battles to scoreless draw
The Southeast Missouri State soccer team failed to snap a three-game winless streak along with a three-game scoreless streak.
It certainly wasn't for a lack of effort. The Redhawks had special motivation Tuesday night, playing for a fallen teammate.
"I think Meg was our big motivation," senior defender Ali Bauer said following a scoreless tie with visiting Evansville that featured two 10-minute overtime periods after the 90 minutes of regulation. "I wish we could have pulled out a win for her, but we did the best we could."
Southeast players' thoughts were with senior defender Meg Herndon, who was critically injured in a scooter accident Sunday and is fighting for her life at a St. Louis hospital.
Herndon, a St. Louis native, has swelling on her brain and is not responsive to people, according to posts on a caringbridge.org website created in Herndon's name.
"We played for Meg tonight, as a family," sophomore forward Kasey Crowden said.
Southeast associate head coach Paul Nelson said at one point it wasn't certain that the Redhawks would play their first game since Herndon's accident.
"At one stage we weren't going to play the game," Nelson said. "The captains [Bauer, senior defender Hayley Abbott and senior midfielder Sarah Uptmor] talked to me and the administration."
Said Bauer: "I know everybody on the team wanted to play."
Nelson said it certainly was not a coincidence that an announced crowd of 841 turned out at Houck Stadium, the most to ever watch a Southeast women's soccer game at home.
"The crowd was unbelievable. I guarantee you, most of that was support for Meg. We knew it was going to be a great tribute to Meg," Nelson said. "Meg's family came down tonight for the game and they were overwhelmed by the support. Meg is a great person, and it showed by the amount of people that came to show their support."
Several hundred fans stuck around after the game to gather on the field with the team in a "Rally for Meg" prayer session.
"It felt good to know she had that much support," Bauer said. "When something like this happens, everybody comes together."
Nelson said he thought the Redhawks handled the circumstances about as well as could be expected.
"Initially it's a huge shock," he said. "It's very difficult to deal with."
Despite not coming away with a victory, the Redhawks (1-5-2) did snap a three-game losing streak during which they were outscored by a combined 9-0 against powerhouse programs Louisville, Kentucky and Nebraska.
Nelson thought Southeast had one of its better performances of the season against the Aces (1-6-1), who were outshot 18-9.
"On a technical side, we introduced something new to them the night before the game. They did a great job understanding," Nelson said. "We did very well. We created chances."
The Redhawks were without sophomore forward Erin Shulman, their top offensive threat who suffered a knee injury Saturday at Nebraska. They still had several golden opportunities to score.
Only a brilliant performance by Evansville freshman keeper Simone Busby kept Southeast off the board. Busby was credited with six saves, several of them dazzling.
"She was very good," said Nelson, whose squad has scored only three goals all season.
Crowden, a Jackson High School graduate who saw limited action last year, continues to emerge as an offensive threat.
Crowden, who has started the past two games, had a team-high five shots Tuesday. She hit the crossbar once and saw Busby make a fingertip save on another shot.
"She started off slowly this year, but she has definitely come alive," Nelson said.
Southeast senior keeper Renee Kertz also was strong, recording four saves during her second shutout of the season.
The Redhawks face another tough road test against powerhouse Memphis at 7 p.m. Friday.