LSU freshman Alex Thomas opened the scoring for the home side with her first career goal on a solo effort in the 52nd minute of the second half, but Kaleigh Phillips drew Northwestern State level in the 84th minute as the in-state rivals played to a 1-1 draw in the Tigers’ home opener Tuesday night at the LSU Soccer Stadium.
Thomas showed the attacking threat that made her one of the most feared forwards at the high school level as a two-time Gatorade Louisiana Girls Soccer Player of the Year during her prep career at Ben Franklin High School in New Orleans. That’s where she scored 57 goals just one year ago in her senior season while leading the Falcons to a third-straight state championship.
She found the net for the first time as an LSU Tiger on Tuesday night with a slaloming run through the Demons defense and into the right side of the penalty area where she finished inside the far post from the edge of the six-yard box. Thomas broke the deadlock in the 52nd minute after the sides played a scoreless first half.
The Tigers rookie provided an offensive spark throughout the match as she finished the night with a career-high five shots and two shots on target while opening her account just six minutes from the restart.
Despite creating a number of opportunities to double their lead down the stretch, the Tigers were unable to distance themselves from the visitors as they held their one-goal advantage late in regulation. Junior All-SEC striker Summer Clarke had probably the best chance of all on 71 minutes when she fired straight into the chest of Northwestern State’s substitute goalkeeper Alex Latham after being played through on the break.
The Demons hit back just six minutes from full time when Phillips was played through the LSU back line by midfielder Cassandra Briscoe and placed her right-footed effort inside the top-right corner of the net from just inside the penalty spot to put her team back on level terms at 1-1 at the 83:40 mark of the second half. The sides played scoreless in two extra time periods before settling for a draw on the night.
The 1,018 fans in attendance for LSU’s home opener watched as the hosts created their share of chances while more than doubling their opponents with 20 shot attempts and seven shots on target on the night.
LSU’s sophomore striker Jorian Baucom nearly broke the deadlock herself on two occasions in the first half when she first hit the right post in the 37th minute with a one-time effort from 12 yards off of Fernanda Pina’s layoff in the middle of the area. She then saw her penalty kick saved by the Demons’ starting goalkeeper Brooke Bourbonais in the 41st minute after she was hauled down with a foul by one of the Demon defenders in the right side of the box when leading the attack late in the first half.
After scoring her first goal of the season with the winner in LSU’s 2-1 season-opening victory at Oregon last Friday night, Baucom ended Tuesday’s home opener with a team-leading six shots and three shots on target, while also drawing the foul to earn herself a penalty late as the clock ticked down to halftime. She was also cautioned while going into the referee’s book in the 67th minute.
The Tigers (1-0-1) and Lady Demons (1-1-1) have now faced one another five times on the pitch in a series that dates back to the 1998 season with LSU running its unbeaten record to 4-0-1 all-time in the series.
The Tigers will return to action this weekend when they play host to the “Battle on the Bayou” at the LSU Soccer Stadium as they welcome Western Kentucky to Baton Rouge on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. CT before they face Minnesota on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. in the tournament finale. Stephen F. Austin is also set to take part in the event to round out a slate of four matches this weekend.
While LSU will be playing at 7:30 p.m. on Friday night and at 1 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, this year’s “Battle on the Bayou” event also features Minnesota and Stephen F. Austin in the opening match of the tournament on Friday at 5 p.m. and Stephen F. Austin and Western Kentucky in a Sunday morning clash at 11 a.m. at the LSU Soccer Stadium.