Nov. 12, 2010

Courtesy of Oklahoma State Athletics

STILLWATER, Okla. - Oklahoma State used a pair of second-half goals to remain perfect on its home field this season as the No. 6 Cowgirls opened the 2010 NCAA Women's Soccer Championship with a 2-1 win over Michigan Friday night at the Cowgirl Soccer Complex.

With the win, OSU advances to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the fifth-straight year. The Cowgirls, who are a No. 3 national seed in the tourney, improved to 18-3-2 on the season, tying a school record for single-season wins, and also upped their record to 10-0-0 on their home field in 2010.

The win also sets up an all OSU second-round match as the Cowgirls will take on Oregon State Sunday at 1 p.m. looking to earn their first-ever Sweet 16 berth. The Beavers knocked off Memphis by a 5-0 count in Friday's other first-round game in Stillwater.

"It was a very scrappy game from both teams, a lot of effort," said OSU head coach Colin Carmichael. "Credit to Michigan, they did a great job, especially in the first half, of trying to take away our strengths and playing to their strengths. Thankfully, in the second half we were able to play with a little more energy and put them under a little more pressure, and I think that was the key to being able to get the two goals in the second half.

"(The Cowgirls) been under the gun a little bit for quite a few games now, and they always seem to find a way to pull it out. That's certainly a testament to the character of the team."

Michigan (10-5-4) took the first lead in the match in the 23rd minute. On an OSU attempt to clear the ball, the Wolverines' Tori McCombs blocked the kick of the defender and the ball rolled past goalie AD Franch to the far post to give UM a 1-0 advantage.

OSU managed just three shots in the opening half, and the Wolverines took the 1-0 lead into intermission.

But within a span of 69 seconds in the final half, the Cowgirls would go on top for good.

Just over eight minutes after halftime, the Cowgirls were awarded a free kick after a foul just outside the 18-yard box. And the home team took advantage, as Taylor Mathews sent a high cross into the box that Melinda Mercado headed past UM goalie Haley Kopmeyer for her first goal of the season.

"I practice headers everyday, and they keep telling me I'm due one," said Mercado, the 2010 Big 12 Conference Defensive Player of the Year. "Credit to Taylor (Mathews), that was an amazing ball. If I didn't finish that, I would've hurt myself."

With the goal, Mercado became the 11th different Cowgirl to find the back of the net this season and the 16th different player to record a point.

Up next, it would be time for heroics from another All-Big 12 First Team performer. This time it was Krista Lopez, who took a cross from Katie Richardson and, after two UM defenders collided, found herself with an open-net opportunity. And the junior converted, notching her 14th goal of the season, the third-highest total in school history, to put the Cowgirls on top for good at the 54:53 mark.

The Wolverines would manage just two shots in the final half as OSU advanced for another shot at the Sweet 16.

"We started out really slow and didn't come out with the enthusiasm that we wanted to, and that's a credit to Michigan because they fought really hard," Mercado said. "But in the second half we came out and did a great job of picking up the intensity and were able to come out with the win."