From UL Athletics
LAFAYETTE – In the sweltering heat senior Ashleigh Cadeset the net on fire with two goals and an assist to help the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns women's soccer team win their Sun Belt Conference home opener, 3-2, holding off a late charge from the Georgia Southern Eagles on Sunday here at the Ragin' Cajuns Soccer/Track Complex.
It's the best game of Cade's career with the brace being the first time she's accomplished the feat and the assist means five points in a game for the first time in her career as well.
The win improves the Cajuns record to 5-4-1 (2-0-1 SBC) and it's the best start to conference play Louisiana has had since going 3-0-1 in 2007 to start off the conference. As for Georgia Southern it's their second loss of the weekend and they drop to 3-5-1 (1-2-0 SBC) on the season.
HOW IT HAPPENED (First Half): For the first time this season the Cajuns had Friday off and their fresh legs paid dividends early in the match as they came out looking to attack early.
Before the match even hit the five-minute mark, with the clock sitting just inside the fourth minute, Cade took a throw-in from 30-yards out that she tossed into the box where freshman Una Einarsdottir screened two defenders and deflected the ball towards goal.
Senior Denice Emokpae, working her way behind Einarsdottir and crashing in front of net, stuck her knee out and the ball bounced right off into goal for the Cajuns to start the match off with a bang.
The goal was Emokpae's third goal on the season as she has come up big for the Cajuns in the final third.
It didn't take long for the Cajuns to get on the board yet again, and in the seventh minute in what's the fastest back-to-back goals scored in a game for the Cajuns since their 10-0 win against Alcorn State on Aug. 21, 2016, Cade got her first goal of the game.
After senior Whitney Taggart headed a ball towards goal, Eagles keeper Lauren Karinshak sent the clearance towards midfield, but junior Sarah Kozlowski sent it back towards the box.
Senior Rebecca Foley flicked the ball off her head towards Cade who timed her run perfectly. And just like that, after Cade smoked it into the net, the Cajuns were up 2-0 before the 10-minute mark of the first half.
It was Cade's first goal of the 2017 season, but she wasn't done just yet.
From there the Cajuns kept the pressure on and Emokpae added a shot late in the eighth minute that was cleaned up by senior Kimberly Grasso, both were blocked but the Cajuns weren't done attacking.
Louisiana's sophomore goalkeeper Mackenzie Lee recorded her first save of the match in the 28th minute off a shot that bounced around but she reacted quickly and made sure the Eagles didn't get back in the match.
As the half began to wind down the Cajuns were on the hunt for more, and they got what they were looking for right as the 42nd minute began.
Cade took a ball on a great run and attacked the Eagle keeper, but Karinshak made a great play on the ball and it bounced back out. Freshman Grace Champagne was there to keep the ball in the box and she attracted two defenders, and with her head up she found Cade on the far side of the box.
A perfect pass past those defenders and great positioning from Cade meant that the Cajuns scored yet another goal, her second of the season and the game to go up 3-0, ending one of the best halves they've played in the season so far.
HOW IT HAPPENED (Second Half): The second half began and the Cajuns maintained their pressure, but first Lee needed to yet again get involved. And in the 50th minute, Lee get another save on an Eagles shot at goal.
Both teams began to go back and forth and they traded shots in the 57th and 58th minutes. Both were just off target, but the tone for the second half was set and the Cajuns worked to keep their focus on the goal at hand.
A Lee save in the 68th minute resulted in a break away for the Cajuns and Einarsdottir saw a chance. She had been ranging out the 35-yard shot all second half, and in the 69th minute she almost cashed in as her long-distance shot banged off the underside of the crossbar before bouncing back out just missing the Cajuns fourth goal of the match.
Georgia Southern stayed in the match and in a five-minute period did something that can happen in soccer rather quickly, they changed the momentum.
A goal in the 72nd minute was followed up by a goal in the 75th minute to make it an exciting finish to the match, and one that the Cajuns quickly needed to get a handle on.
Get a handle on things they did, and in the final 15 minutes the Eagles only managed to take two shots, one of those being on goal, that Lee easily handled as the Cajuns held off the late surge from the Eagles to finish off their second conference win of the season with the final sitting at 3-2.
NOTEWORTHY: Lee recorded four saves and she's off to the best start for a Cajuns goalkeeper since Cosette Morche started the season 5-2-0 in 2015. Lee has already recorded 31 saves on the season as she continues to lock down the keeper spot; On top of her brace Cade finished the day with four shots, three of which were on goal along with playing the full match complement of 90 minutes; Emokpae has reached three goals in the season the fastest in her career this season and she's one away from tying her career high of four goals.
It's the second time the Cajuns have scored three goals in a half this season, the last being against Nicholls on Sept. 10; Louisiana wins conference home opener for the first time since beating Little Rock, 2-1, on Oct. 11, 2013.
UP NEXT: The Cajuns look to go unbeaten in their first four conference games for the first time since 2007 when they return to the pitch on Friday, Sept. 29 hosting the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers at the Ragin' Cajuns Soccer/Track Complex with the match starting at 7 p.m. After that match the Cajuns hit the road heading to Atlanta, Georgia to face the Georgia State Panthers with a noon start on Sunday, Oct. 1.
The home match against Coastal Carolina has free admission and a free streaming will be provided on the Ragin' Cajuns Digital Network. As for the match in Atlanta, there will be a live stats courtesy of the Georgia State athletic department. Follow @RaginCajunsSOC for recaps and links to live stats and live streaming on match day.