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SPORTS: Oklahoma State University

Cowgirls Suffer First-Round Loss

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STILLWATER, Oklahoma -

Oklahoma State saw its season come to an end Friday night in the opening round of the NCAA Women's Soccer Championship as the Cowgirls dropped a 2-1 decision to Arkansas at the Cowgirl Soccer Complex.

The loss snapped a string of six-straight NCAA tourney berths in which OSU had advanced to at least the second round. The Cowgirls finish the season with a 9-7-6 mark.

"I told the girls to be disappointed tonight because we lost, but only one team's season doesn't end in tears and that's the national champion," said OSU head coach Colin Carmichael. "This loss doesn't feel any better or worse than losing in the Elite Eight – you still lost and your season is over. It's tough for the kids and tough for us.

"But I'm really proud of this group. We had one senior and one junior who play significant minutes, and these young players are going to get better… Hopefully we use this experience to make us better and stronger for next season. I'm proud of how this young team came together. Late in the year we played some really good soccer. We'll be back next year and hopefully on to bigger and better things."

For Arkansas, their first-ever NCAA Tournament game was a memorable one as the Razorbacks improved to 14-8-0 on the season.

"It's huge," said Arkansas head coach Colby Hale. "Women's soccer is relevant, and it hasn't been at our university in a while. I'm very proud of them.

"That was our team. It's not always pretty, but it's gutty. They fight, they battle and they win a lot."

In a match that was close throughout, the Razorbacks struck first. After dribbling end line, Claire Kelley sent a cross into the box that Lindsey Mayo chipped off the far post to put UA up 1-0 in the 34th minute.

Arkansas took that lead into intermission, but the Cowgirls didn't take long to record the equalizer in the second half.

In the 49th minute, Madison Mercado took a long punt from goalie Michela Ongaro, dribbled past the defense and drilled a left-footed shot from 25-yards out top shelf for the equalizer. The goal was the fifth of the season for Mercado, while Ongaro recorded her first-career assist.

The tie held until the 70th minute. After an OSU foul, Tyler Allen took the free kick from just inside midfield. The ball sailed into the box and bounced into the goal untouched to give Arkansas a 2-1 advantage.

Arkansas finished the match with a 17-16 shots advantage, but the Cowgirls did not manage a shot during the final 22 minutes of the contest.

"(Arkansas) scraps, they fight, they're gutty, and they're very good on set plays – and both their goals came off set plays and fighting for the ball," Carmichael said. "They're tough to play against and credit to them. We wish them good luck in the next round."

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