All-SEC standouts Summer Clarke and Megan Lee gave the Tigers (4-2-1) a 2-1 lead at the break, while rookie striker Jorian Baucom and All-SEC midfielder Emma Fletcher found the back of the net in the second half to give LSU its first signature win of the 2014 season. The victory ran LSU’s record to 2-1-1 in four meetings all-time with the Cougars (1-3-2).
The Tigers are now unbeaten in their last two matches after earning their first ever victory in Provo. The sides played to a 0-0 draw in their last meeting at BYU’s South Field during the 2010 season.
LSU’s 4-3 victory on Thursday night marked the first time a BYU side has conceded three or more goals in a match in more than six years since Sept. 4, 2008, when the Cougars dropped a 4-1 decision at William & Mary.
“I’m very proud of the fight our team showed tonight. We certainly fought to the very end,” said LSU head coach Brian Lee following the match. “That’s what you have to do when you play a team like BYU. You have to match their effort and their intensity, because they always respond when the game calls for it. I think we did a great job of that tonight to come away with a win in a very tough place to play.
“That’s what I’m most proud of with this group. We’re a young team and are learning more and more about each other each time we get a chance to play. We certainly capitalized when given the chance tonight.”
The Tigers were rewarded for their early pressure with the opening goal of the match in the 23rd minute when Clarke latched onto an errant pass at the back by the Cougars and fired home from just inside the area past BYU’s Katherine Snyder charging off her line to cut off the angle. Clarke slotted the ball inside the right post for her team-leading fourth goal of the season.
The home side answered straightaway as BYU’s Marissa Nimmer buried a left-footed strike inside the left post from the top of the box to level the score at 1-1 just 37 seconds after Clarke’s breakthrough.
BYU’s answer seemed to spark the Tigers as they immediately went to work on regaining the lead with the injection of Baucom into the game midway through the half. With Baucom and Clarke leading the line and the likes of Fletcher and Natalia Gomez-Junco attacking from midfield, the Tigers pressured the Cougar backs for the remainder of the half.
It was the right foot of Lee that gave the Tigers a 2-1 lead heading into the break when she found herself in possession down the left side of the field and cut back for a curling chip over Snyder’s outstretched arms and inside the top right corner of the net for her opening goal of the campaign. After Lee opened her account at the 38:31 mark, the Tigers saw out the final six minutes of the half to take their 2-1 lead into the break.
“It’s a shot I actually practice a lot in training. I’m strong with my left foot, so I’m usually practicing down the right side and hitting it with my left foot after cutting it back to the left side,” Lee explained. “This time, I cut it back to the right and tried the same thing with my right foot. You just try to pick out the crossbar and see what happens. I couldn’t have hit it any better, I don’t think.”
The visitors threatened again out of the break, earning each of their three corner kicks of the match in a two-minute span in the opening 15 minutes of the second frame. LSU’s third corner kick in succession nearly led to the team’s third goal as Natalia Gomez-Junco’s curling effort into the box from the left corner flag cleared the keeper and crashed off the far post before being cleared out of danger by the Cougar defense.
The Cougars immediately hit on the counter attack when Niki Fernandes broke free down the left side before pulling back a pass to Ashley Hatch near the top of the penalty area. Hatch’s curling shot found the back of the net inside the right post and drew BYU level for a second time at 2-2 in the 63rd minute of play.
The Tigers maintained their frenetic pace from the ensuing kickoff when Gomez-Junco played an exquisite through ball to Baucom running free behind the Cougar back line where she was taken down for a penalty by a pair of BYU defenders inside of two minutes from Hatch’s equalizer. Baucom took the ball and buried the spot kick for her fourth goal of the season to match Clarke as the team’s leading scorer.
Fletcher’s strike in the 79th minute proved to be the game-winner as she not only opened her account with her first goal of the season, but doubled her tally as an LSU Tiger with her second career goal.
It was an impressive team build up by the Tigers as Baucom held up the initial ball played from the back to the top of the box and laid it off to Gomez-Junco in space attacking down the left side. Gomez-Junco passed to Fletcher in a one-on-one situation with BYU’s right back where she cut inside to her right and finished inside the left post from the top of the box with Snyder getting a fingertip on her effort.
Nadia Gomes scored a consolation for the home side on a corner kick taken just five minutes from time with a one-time strike from the penalty spot that clipped the left post and trickled across the line for the score.
“I think our performance tonight showed that we’re starting to come together more with each game, particularly as a front four,” Fletcher said. “I thought we were really dangerous going forward. We created so many more chances that we could have scored, so it’s great to see that we’re starting to gel and play better together as a team.
“I thought (Katherine Snyder) was going to save it, to be honest. She got a hand to it for sure,” Fletcher added about her game-winning goal. “It was a good feeling to see it get through. We needed it at that point.”
After kicking off their four-game road swing with a thrilling 4-3 victory over BYU in Provo, Utah, on Thursday night, the Tigers will make the cross-country trip to Durham, North Carolina, on Friday to prepare for a match against the Duke Blue Devils on Sunday afternoon with kickoff set for noon CT at Koskinen Stadium. LSU will then open SEC play next weekend with a match against the Missouri Tigers in Columbia on Sept. 19 ahead of a trip to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to wrap up the road swing against the Marquette Golden Eagles on Sept. 21.