Otahkians finish regular season in style

Monday, November 5, 2001

Southeast Missouri State University's women's soccer team capped a perfect Ohio Valley Conference season in resounding fashion Sunday afternoon.

Playing Murray State in their final regular-season game, the Otahkians rolled to a 4-0 victory in front of more than 300 fans at Houck Stadium.

The Otahkians, in just their third year of playing soccer, had already wrapped up their first OVC championship. Sunday's victory improved their overall record to 15-1 and pushed their conference mark to 5-0.

Murray State fell to 8-8 overall and 2-3 in the OVC.

Southeast, which outscored its conference opponents 16-0 this year, jumped in front at the 32:12 mark Sunday as Cape Girardeau Central High School product Nichole Thiele -- one of just two senior starters for the Otahkians -- scored an unassisted goal. It was her 29th career goal and ninth of the season.

Freshman Marla Gianino scored her eighth goal of the season, off an assist from Karen Schmitt, 10 minutes later to put the Otahkians ahead 2-0 at halftime.

Early in the second half, freshman Erin Slattery scored on a penalty kick for her team-leading 10th goal of the season. Valerie Henderson closed out the scoring late in the game as she got her third goal of the year, with assists from Slattery and Erika Todd.

Goalkeeper Beth Guccione, the Otahkians' other senior, recorded her 12th shutout of the season and 15th of her career by making three saves. Guccione is fifth nationally in goals-allowed average and she leads the OVC in shutouts.

The Otahkians held a commanding 16-3 edge in shots and they had seven corner kicks to just two for the Racers.

"I think it's a real good accomplishment for such a young program," said Southeast coach Heather Nelson of her squad's first OVC title. "Our first goal this year was to go undefeated in the conference and our second goal was to win the OVC Tournament and make the NCAA Tournament."

Southeast will have an opportunity to accomplish that second goal at home this weekend as the Otahkians earned the right to host the four-team OVC tourney by virtue of capturing the regular-season league crown.

The top-seeded Otahkians will have a rematch with fourth-seeded Murray State at 7 p.m. Friday, following the tournament's first semifinal game between second-seeded Eastern Illinois and third-seeded Tennessee Tech. The championship match is set for 2 p.m. Sunday, with the winner earning an automatic NCAA berth.

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