Senior goalkeeper Kallie Essary stood tall Friday afternoon delivering Midwestern State to the LSC Postseason Tournament finals as the Mustangs advanced 3-1 in penalty kicks after playing Texas A&M-Commerce to a scoreless draw at the ASU Soccer Field.
The Mustangs will face West Texas A&M, 1-0 winner over host Angelo State in the other semifinal, in the title game on Sunday. Kickoff is set for noon.
"We came out a little slow, but they are so tough to play," MSU coach Jeff Trimble said. "They are so good on corners and restarts so your margin for error isn't very big."
Essary made three tops to clinch her program single season record with her ninth shutout of the campaign, but she came up even bigger when it mattered most.
"She surprises me more and more every day," Trimble said. "This was a great, great game for her. She came up really big."
The Carrollton native lunched to her left to make a save on A&M-Commerce's Jade Bell on the Lions' first penalty kick after sophomore Morgan Hannon converted MSU's first attempt, but sophomore forward Ashley Cottrell's serve was saved to the right.
A&M-Commerce Anitra Wright tucked her shot just under the right corner of the crossbar to equalize the PK session and then MSU freshman Katie Huff put MSU up 2-1.
The Essary came up aces again stopping A&M-C leading scorer Savannah Henderson's blast by with a diving stop to her left.
Tatyanny Griffiths tucked her service into the lower left corner of the net then Brionna Minde blasted the Lions' fourth penalty kick over the crossbar to end the contest.
"We picked our 10 this week (to shoot PKs) and we practiced them every day this week," Trimble said. "Coaches Kyle (Redding) and Amanda (Snodgrass) did a good job selected them. We told them to just be confident and not be scared. And Kallie stood on her head."
Texas A&M-Commerce controlled a 5-3 edge in shots in the opening half while working its way to six corner kicks, but the Lions were unable to produce many dangerous opportunities.
Behind a strong defensive performance by senior Anna Molen and sophomore Alex Edwards alongside freshmen Haley Britton and Huff, the Mustangs shut down the A&M-Commerce attack holding the Lions to six total shots the rest of the way with three shots on frame.
"The back line played really well," Trimble said. "That is a lot of pressure to be under."
The Mustangs controlled possession which resulted in 13 shots the rest of the way as Kensli Pounds hit the post with a shot from the right wing in the 108th minute. That was just one of the many opportunities MSU produced in front of the A&M-Commerce goal.
No. 13 Midwestern State used an 19-2 second-half run to pull out a 68-60 win over Southwestern Oklahoma in Friday night's season opener as part of the SWOSU Classic at Rankin Williams Fieldhouse.
The Mustangs, who claimed their third straight season opener, close tournament play against East Central (Okla.) Saturday afternoon. ECU dropped a 72-62 decision to Angelo State earlier Friday afternoon.
Midwestern overcame deep foul trouble in the first half and a great early second half surge by the Bulldogs as SWOSU's lead ballooned to nine points when Trent Washington hit a jumper for a 42-33 lead with 15:26 to play.
"What a tough basketball game. We've been so good in the past about dealing with adversity," MSU coach Nelson Haggerty said. "Each year your team has to find that switch. We battled through fouls in the first half and had to make an adjustment."
After the teams exchanged buckets, senior guard Cam Adderley kick started the 19-2 run when followed his own miss with a put back with 14:23 to play to cut the lead to seven.
MSU peeled off 14 consecutive points, tied the game on a Monzaigo Williams 3-pointer then got consecutive lay ups by Tavarion Nix and Xavier Blackburn before SWOSU's Gary Inglett stopped a 5-minute scoring drought for the Bulldogs with a pair of free throws.
But the run continued with a 3-pointer from the corner by Derrell Gibbs and a lay up in transition by Williams to stake the Mustangs to 53-46 advantage with 6:23 to play.
"During that 18-2 run, I think bonded together and learned how to win," Haggerty said. "(Williams) just really stepped up and stepped into some shots and made plays for others. For whatever reason, he didn't start out playing so well tonight. He started getting into it at the end of the first half and that carried over after halftime."
Williams scored 11 of his game-high 17 points in the second half, but senior backcourt mate DeJuan Plummer gave MSU a big lift with 12 points in the second half finishing a solid all-around performance with 16 points, six rebounds and six assists.
Plummer hit a pair of free throws during the run, but played a key role by dishing out three assists to spur the Mustangs into the lead.
"He did it all for us tonight," Haggerty said. "What I can say about him is that he is aggressive and can make plays."
Junior swingman Xavier Blackburn scored 11 points and pulled down six rebounds off of the bench, while senior forward Eddie D'Haiti had 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting in 22 minutes of play.
The Mustangs committed just six turnovers and converted 15 Southwestern Oklahoma miscues into 18 points. The Bulldogs had no points off of turnovers.
Michael Bradley joined Inglett with 14 points each to pace SWOSU.