NCAA WOMEN’S SOCCER: Cadena strikes twice as SMSU advances

MANKATO – Miranda Cadena recorded her fourth multiple-goal performance of the season by scoring two goals to lift fifth-seeded Southwest Minnesota State to a 3-1 victory over fourth-seeded Central Missouri in the first round of the NCAA Division II Tournament on Friday.

“Our girls played outstanding, especially after having a tough stretch during our last four matches,” Southwest Minnesota State head coach T.J. Buchholz said. “We were able to find some scoring and it was great to see us get back to what we do well.

“The way our girls performed Friday is the way they have played for much of thios season,”?Buchholz said. “Rock-solid defense in the back and very aggressive in scoring goals.”

With the win, SMSU advances to play top-seeded Minnesota State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament a 1 p.m. Sunday. The match will be held at The Pitch in Mankato.

The win is the Mustangs’ first against a National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Top 25-ranked opponent and first NCAA Tournament win in program history.

The win snapped a four-game winless streak dating back to Oct. 26 versus Concordia-St. Paul.

SMSU jumped on the board first in the 24th minute with Vanesa Corona’s fifth goal of the season. Corona hooked a penalty kick just inside the left post and passed Central Missouri goaltender Jessica Grindstaff to put the Mustangs up 1-0. The goal snapped an SMSU scoring drought of more than 425 minutes – a span of four matches.

“It was great to get that first goal because we were panicking,” Mustangs’ forward Miranda Cadena said of Corona’s goal. “Once we had a lead, all of the pressure went away and we could relax and play our game.”

Relax, she did.

The Mustangs padded their lead in the 35th minute, when Cadena took a pass from Sarah Keppler on a breakaway. Cadena shot right and managed to get it past Grindstaff, who came out of the box aggressively to try and stop the breakaway.

The 2-0 lead did not last long as the Jennies responded immediately one minute later on Julie Ireland’s 11th goal of the season.

The last 14 minutes of the first half was controlled by Central Missouri as SMSU had to stop some late charges by the Jennies to keep the 2-1 lead heading into the break.

“It was a really hard-fought match because Central Missouri came out right at us. They wanted to win as much as we did,” Mustangs midfielder Autumn Hayes said. “I think we had to keep our composure and pressure them harder and we found the back of the net.”

Central Missouri made a change at goalkeeper in the second half in an attempt to slow the Mustangs’ offense with Morgan Hartzler guarding the Jennies’ net.

The change didn’t slow the SMSU offense or Cadena down as the Mustangs came out of the break poised and continued to pressure until the Central Missouri defense broke.

In the 80th minute, the final straw was pulled as Cadena beat Hartzler for her second goal of th ematch off the pass from Kendahl Fisher to give the Mustangs a 3-1 lead.

“Before the match, we talked about getting back to playing our game because we have something to prove in this tournament,”?Hayes said. “If we were going to prove ourselves, we had to put the ball in the back of the net. Miranda did a great job of finishing and Vanessa gave us a great start with her goal.”

SMSU (15-3-2) has a day off today before returning to action on Sunday versus Minnesota State. The Mustangs and Mavericks tied 0-0 in double overtime during their last meeting on Oct. 27.