Bowling Green, Kentucky (KVIA) -- Resiliency. Never backing down no matter the obstacle. Despite countless challenges, the Aggies battled their way through a difficult season, finding themselves on the precipice of the first regular season title in program history.
Off the foot of sophomore Meredith Scott in the 75th minute, NM State (9-6-3, 6-0-2 CUSA) took down Western Kentucky (6-4-7, 4-2-2 CUSA) 1-0 in Bowling Green.
“I am so proud of these young ladies!” said Head Coach Rob Baarts. “We have gone to hell and back this year and players have continued to step up!”
This marks the first career goal for Scott, a first-year transfer from Pima CC, already boasting two assists on the season. True freshman Shila Rasoul prodded the Lady Topper defense from the left side of the field, setting up Scott with a left-footed cross that she converted into the game-winning goal.
Redshirt freshman and first-year starter Valerie Guha played a huge role in securing the victory, notching the fourth shutout of her young career and securing a career-best of nine saves.
With both teams eager to call themselves CUSA regular season champions, Western Kentucky wasted no time pressuring the NM State defense, forcing Valerie Guha to make three saves within the first three minutes of action. By the time Shila Rasoul recorded the first shot of the contest for the Crimson & White in the 14th minute, WKU totaled five shots.
While the Aggies were aggressive on the offensive end they were unable to convert on their first corner kick of the contest in the 20th minute, when a line drive by Brooke Schultz was turned away by WKU goalkeeper Maddie Davis.
Around the midway point of the first half, the two teams shifted into a more aggressive playstyle, jostling for positioning on balls in the air and trying to create space for themselves on the ground. Mya Gonzales got off one of her two shots on the night in the 25th minute, turning into the second corner kick of the half for NM State.
As the clock approached ten minutes remaining in the half, a scary collision between Xitlaly Hernandez and a WKU defender stopped the game for multiple minutes. Carried off the field by the training staff, Kennedy Herrera made her fifth appearance of the season in place of the injured Hernandez, totaling a career-high 55 minutes.
Following the delay, Meredith Scott kept up the offensive aggression, dribbling through multiple Lady Toppers’ defenders to fire a right-footed shot towards the WKU goalie just seconds after play resumed.
A creative set piece on their xth corner kick of the night confused the WKU defense, leading Megan Ormson to fire a shot that just missed the back of the net, hitting the crossbar.
Locked in a 0-0 tie at the break, Western Kentucky led in both shots (10-5) and shots on goal (6-3), while NM State held the advantage in corner kicks (3-1).
With just 45 minutes remaining in the regular season, the Aggies came out in the second half with a renewed sense of urgency.
Looking to help her team get a goal on the board, Loma McNeese recorded a pair of shot attempts early in half number two, though both were just wide of the net. A cross from Mya Gonzales found the head of Loma McNeese in the 51st minute, though she was not able to get a good connection and fired the ball wide over the net.
Minutes later, a transition opportunity for the Aggies found the feet of Mya Gonzales open inside the penalty box, firing a hooking shot towards the top right of the net that flew out of play for a Lady Topper goal kick.
WKU challenged NM State keeper Valerie Guha for the first time in half two in the 59th minute, when a shot by Katie Erwin sped towards the top half of the goal – though Guha was able to extend and deflect the ball away for a save.
Returning to the game in the 63rd minute, graduate student Xitlaly Hernandez made her presence felt on both ends of the field, helping the Aggies earn a trio of corner kicks while stifling the Lady Topper attack.
Looking to generate positive momentum as the clock neared zero, Shila Rasoul attacked the WKU defense from the left side of the field, dribbling down towards the touchline before firing a left-footed cross. Launching just out of the reach of the Lady Toppers’ goalie, Meredith Scott was able to crash down from the right side of the penalty box and knock in the game-winning goal. This became Scott’s first goal in Crimson & White, increasing her point total to four on the season (one goal, two assists).
Trying to find an equalizer and earn a share of the CUSA regular season title, the Lady Toppers put up four shots in the final 15 minutes of action, though only one would be on goal.
Loma McNeese | Senior Forward
“This team is something so special and we got fire, fight, and determination in us. I am so proud of these girls and all the work we’ve put into this season for each other and for our teammate T. I’m extremely happy for us but now our focus is the conference tournament. Our job isn’t done yet.”
Meredith Scott | Sophomore Forward
“I’m so happy that we were able to finish the season out with a win! This season we’re playing for something greater than ourselves.”
Numbers of Note
- 9 – Coming into the contest with a career-best of five saves, Valerie Guha shattered that mark on Friday, tallying nine saves while facing 18 shots. This is the most attempts against NM State this season, surpassing 17 shots faced against Texas Tech (8/20).
- 7 – Following Friday’s 1-0 victory, the Aggies ended the regular season with seven shutouts, including five in conference play.
- 9-6-3 – Despite a challenging non-conference schedule, the Aggies finished the season with a 9-6-3 mark, doing so while going without a loss since Sept. 14 (3-0, at USC).
- 6-0-2 – For the first time in program history, NM State ended their conference slate without a loss on the schedule. Their .875 winning percentage in CUSA play is also the best conference mark in team history.
- 1 – Meredith Scott recorded her first career goal at NM State in the 75th minute, playing hero for the Aggies en route to a regular season championship.
Securing the top overall seed in the CUSA Championships, NM State guarantees a first-round bye and a spot in the semifinals. Held in Ruston, La., – home of LA Tech – the 2023 CUSA Championships begin Nov. 1 with first-round action. The semifinals will begin Nov. 3, while the Championship match is set for Nov. 5. All matches can be streamed on ESPN+ with times for NM State’s matchups to be announced.