BEAUMONT, Texas – M.J. Eckart scored two goals, including the game-winner on a penalty kick with 3:26 remaining in regulation, to lift the Lamar University Cardinals to their first-ever win over Stephen F. Austin, a 3-2 decision at the LU Soccer Complex on Sunday.
“It’s one of those moments you’ll remember the rest of your life,” said Eckart, a senior, about the game-winning goal. We knew we had never beaten Stephen F. Austin, so this is a special win for us.”
The Cardinals were 0-11 all-time against the Ladyjacks, including a loss in the 2012 Southland Conference Tournament championship game. Until Sunday, SFA was the only team in the conference that the Cardinals had never beaten.
“This is a year of firsts,” LU coach Steve Holeman said. “We had a chance to make history today, and this team never let up.”
The win also put the Cardinals (9-3-1 overall, 4-1-0 Southland) in a three-way tie for first in the Southland Conference with Central Arkansas and McNeese.
Things didn’t get off to a great start for LU, as the Ladyjacks (6-6-0, 3-2-0) scored just 2:13 into the game as Katelyn Termini took a pass from Rose Kennedy and fired it past LU goalkeeper Lauren Lovejoy.
“They scored on a set play, and they are one of the best teams in the conference on set plays,” Holeman said. “SFA is one of the top teams in the league. You have to figure you’re not going to keep them off the board the entire game.”
The Cardinals took the lead with a pair of goals 5:59 apart later in the first half. Marie Lund tied it at 1 with 13:09 remaining in the half as she took a pass from Kelso Peskin and roofed a shot just under the crossbar. Eckart made it 2-1 with 7:10 remaining in the half as she converted a beautiful feed from Peskin.
SFA evened the game at 2 a little more than 18 minutes into the second half when Madison Hall’s long shot skipped past Lovejoy. That only served to set the stage for Eckart’s dramatics when the Ladyjacks were called for a foul inside the penalty area.
“The key is composure and confidence,” said Eckart who has scored two penalty-kick goals in the last two games after having never taken a penalty kick before this weekend. “I felt relief when it went in, but I also stayed focused because the game wasn’t over.”
When the game was finally over a few minutes later, the Cardinals celebrated what is arguably one of the biggest wins in the 11-year history of the program.
“We’ll enjoy the moment, but there is still plenty of soccer left this season,” Holeman said. “This team has a great mentality. I’m happy for them.”
Lovejoy made six saves for the Cardinals, while Allyson Smith turned aside 12 shots in goal for SFA. Peskin’s two assists on the day give her a conference-leading eight assists for the season.
The Cardinals have only one game next weekend, traveling to Southeastern Louisiana for a clash with the Lady Lions at 7 p.m. Friday. LU opens a two-game homestand by hosting Incarnate Word at 7 p.m. Oct. 13. Abilene Christian visits the LU Soccer Complex at 1 p.m. Oct. 15.