NORMAL, Ill. – The Missouri Valley Conference semifinal match between Illinois State and Missouri State turned into The Rachel Tejada Show Friday night at Adelaide Street Field in Normal, Ill. Behind Tejada’s record-tying four goals, the Redbirds advanced to the MVC title game with a 6-2 defeat of Missouri State.
Scoring has hardly been a problem for the Redbirds this season and they had no trouble finding the back of the net Friday night. Hannah Leinert gave ISU an early 1-0 lead in the ninth minute of the match off a perfectly placed cross from Kelli Zickert. The goal was Leinert’s 10th of the season and the assist was Zickert’s fourth.
The two teams battled back and forth for much of the first half and shortly after ISU’s goal, the Redbirds were called for a handball in the box. Missouri State’s Molly Huber stepped up to take the penalty kick, but was denied by Aryn Newsom on a beautiful save. With 18 minutes remaining in the half, Leinert and Missouri State goalkeeper Jessica Perry collided just outside the penalty box. Leinert was injured on the play and did not return to the match, however, she did walk off under her own power.
Without their second-leading scorer, ISU picked up the intensity and gave themselves some insurance in the 33rd when Tejada scored her first goal of the match unassisted. Missouri State answered back two minutes later though, as Alix Opfer pushed a ball past Newsom to bring the score to 2-1 and the score would hold until halftime.
As the night wore on, the temperature continued to drop colder, but Tejada was just heating up. If the Bears had any upset thoughts, the four-time MVC Player of the Year put them to bed quickly in the second half. She scored in the 49th minute off an assist from Ali Farkos and then netted another in the 50th minute, courtesy of a Dagny Olson assist. The hat trick is ISU’s first of the season.
In the 59th minute, Tejada was whistled for a foul in the Missouri State box, which resulted in another penalty kick for the Bears. Lauren Fussell took it this time for MSU and she snuck the ball inside the right post past a diving Newsom.
With the score 4-2, Emily Dickman entered as a reserve and scored her sixth goal of the season off a rebound in the 69th minute. Ten minutes later, Tejada put away her fourth goal of the game off assists from Sara Stankoskey and Lauren Koehl.
Tejada’s four goals tie the program record set by Kyla Cross back on Oct. 14, 2012. More importantly, they gave ISU the win that sends the Redbirds to the MVC Championship match Sunday against Evansville.
The Purple Aces are the second seed in the tournament and defeated Drake 2-0 in the first semifinal match. ISU defeated Evansville 1-0 in early October on a game-winning goal from Zickert.
The Redbirds outshot Missouri State 20-13 and 13 of ISU’s shots were on goal. The ‘Birds held the advantage in corner kicks 10-3 and Newsom made four saves in the net. Eight different Redbirds recorded a point and the team has scored 20 goals in the last four games.
The championship match will kick off at 1 p.m. at Adelaide Street Field on Sunday. A live audio broadcast will be available on WZND 103.3 and GoRedbirds.com and the game can be seen live on ESPN3. Tickets can be purchased at the gate prior to kickoff.