An offensive spark off the bench and an airtight defensive effort led the Oklahoma soccer team to their first victory of the season on Sunday morning in Knoxville, a 2-0 shutout win over Kennesaw State at Regal Soccer Stadium. The Sooners (1-1, 0-0 Big 12) fired 12 shots at the Owls (1-1, 0-0 ASC) while allowing KSU to attempt only three shots in return.
"This was a very encouraging team performance, especially with the constant changes and playing time we were able to get for different players today," head coach Matt Potter said. "The performance showed great maturity and growth. We managed the conditions and the game much better than the last, and that allowed us to dictate large parts of the game."
Freshman Madison Saliba came off the bench in the first half and made her presence known almost immediately, firing in two goals in less than two minutes to give Oklahoma an early lead that they would not surrender. Freshman goalkeeper Miranda Larkin was a key component of the Sooners' defensive work, posting two saves while allowing zero goals to earn a shutout in her first collegiate start in the box.
"Our possession is improving, and to get two goals from set pieces was exciting," Potter added. "The discipline and focus to keep a clean sheet was pleasing for us as coaches considering the last minute goalkeeper change in warm-ups."
The Sooners came out fast in the first half, posting four shots from three players in under ten minutes to begin the game. OU got on the board in the 27th minute of play, when Madison Saliba brought out one of Oklahoma's seven corner kicks. Saliba sent the kick into the back right corner, deflecting the ball off KSU goalkeeper Olivia Sturdivant to give OU a 1-0 lead.
Under two minutes later, Saliba struck again with her second unassisted goal of the match. The freshman fired a free kick left of center field that flew past Sturdivant in the top right corner of the goal to boost the Sooners' lead to 2-0, a mark that would stand for the remainder of the match.
A total of 22 Sooners saw action throughout the game, with Larkin, redshirt freshman Katie Sheinfeld and redshirt freshman Katie Marcheso making their first appearances of the season for the squad.
"Overall, it was a weekend with many positives and valuable lessons," Potter said. "The most important thing the girls took away was the win today coupled with the response to Friday's match."
Oklahoma will be back in action next weekend, opening the Bedlam Series on the road in Stillwater on Friday, Aug. 30 at 7 p.m. CT. OU will return home on Sunday, Sept. 1 for a noon CT contest with Texas State at the OU Soccer Complex in Norman.