Stillwater, OK – Madison Mercado and Courtney Dike might have been able to beat Drake University by themselves Wednesday night.
Mercado and Dike, who have played together since their high school days, combined to create all of Oklahoma State’s goals in its 3-0 nonconference win against the Bulldogs at the Cowgirl Soccer Complex.
When Dike wasn’t scoring, she was creating chances for Mercado. When Mercado wasn’t scoring, she was returning the favor for Dike. Dike scored two goals, both assisted by Mercado, and Mercado scored off an assist from Dike.
“We just had an eye for each other this game,” Dike said. “We played together in club my junior year (of high school). It started from there. We’ve always had really good chemistry, and I think it came out again tonight.”
In the summer of 2012, Dike and Mercado partnered up on the OFC ’94 prep squad and won a state championship together. A year later, Dike joined up with Mercado again when she enrolled at Oklahoma State, and they’ve started 48 games alongside each other at OSU.
“We worked well together,” Mercado said. “We’ve played together since club, so we have that connection. And I feel like all season we’ve been trying to get that, and get it right. And this game we just did.”
The Cowgirls (6-6-2) worked on providing better service for Dike during practice on Tuesday, with Carmichael instructing his players on how to feed her the ball closer to the middle of the field. On Wednesday night, that work paid off.
“They played great,” Cowgirl coach Colin Carmichael said. “With Courtney, we talked this week about keeping her more central and not having her run as wide as much, and that seemed to help. Maddie was just buzzing around the field; she just looked full of energy tonight. It’s good to have those two on the scoresheet.”
Dike kicked off the scoring for the Cowgirls in the 10th minute with a tap-in from the edge of the 8-yard box. Dike received a throw-in inside the 18-yard box and held up play before turning her shoulder and finding Mercado, who played Dike through on goal with a flick that set up her former club teammate for an easy finish.
“It’s great for our confidence,” Mercado said. “We needed this game to get flowing. Everybody’s playing. People are scoring. It was good for us, especially with how tough our schedule has been.”
Dike went from scorer to provider two minutes after the start of the second half. After junior defender Christina Jean-Charles’ pressure forced a Drake giveaway on the edge of its box, Dike collected the ball and sent in a ground cross to Mercado, who turned and delivered a one-touch chip of the keeper with her right foot.
“We’ve been working on crossing and finishing and being clinical in the 18,” Mercado said. “(Courtney) gave me a great ball and I finished.”
Mercado came close to scoring the game’s final goal, but her 58th minute strike from 15 yards out was parried away by Drake keeper Brooke Dennis. But par for the course on Wednesday night, Dike was there to tap home the rebound.
The Cowgirls controlled the game, keeping the majority of possessions and getting off 22 shots. Dennis was forced to make nine saves and had to organize her defense against 12 OSU corners. Although Oklahoma State could have converted a couple more of its chances, the Cowgirls’ offensive performance was an improvement on their recent form.
“We were definitely the more dominant team today,” Dike said. “We finished not as much as we’d like, but it’s still a positive. Getting those three goals in the back of the net, regardless of the shots. We’re just going to build from here and hopefully be better next game.”
After starting off Big 12 play with two losses and two draws, Wednesday night’s nonconference matchup gave the Cowgirls a chance to rebound and to build confidence for the back half of their conference schedule.
“I think we came out knowing we needed to win this game, just to get back to .500 and be back in everything,” Dike said. “I think we came out and did what we needed to do. And scoring a couple of goals builds confidence no matter who you are playing, so I think we needed that.”
THINK PINK NIGHT
If you were looking for America’s brightest orange Wednesday night, you wouldn’t have found it on the field at the Cowgirl Soccer Complex.
Oklahoma State traded its traditional black and orange jerseys for pink tops in support of breast cancer awareness during its 3-0 win over Drake University. game against Oral Roberts, with proceeds
The Cowgirls have been holding breast cancer awareness nights as frequently as possible since the 2009 season. Bridget Brown, then a senior defender on the team, brought up the idea of having a “Think Pink” night and did the legwork to help get the event started.
“She had seen it done at other places,” assistant head coach Karen Hancock said. “And she wondered if we could maybe do it. I looked into it and found out that we could.”
Brown, who is currently a registered nurse working in Tampa, Florida, said that nobody in her immediate family had been affected by breast cancer, but that her best friend’s mother battled with the disease. With her academic focus being the medical field, Brown was the perfect person to get an event like this off the ground.
“I had always seen other professional sports team wearing pink to raise awareness,” Brown said. “I figured the more awareness we could provide about breast cancer, maybe then the more hope and inspiration we could instill in those affected by the disease.”
October has been National Breast Cancer Awareness Month since 1985, and several sports leagues and teams across the country have taken a leading role in promoting the movement. The “Think Pink” jerseys the Cowgirls wore on Wednesday will be auctioned off Friday night during Oklahoma State’s game against Oral Roberts, with all proceeds going to the Susan G. Komen organization fund.
Hancock said that Brown’s work ethic and dedication to community service was what made this event possible.
“Bridget was a go-getter in many ways,” Hancock said. “Not only on the field, but off the field. She was a ‘Senior of Significance’ that year, not only for athletes, but for the whole student body. And part of that was her drive to get this going.”
Brown was one of 45 recipients of the Senior of Significance Award for the 2009-10 academic year, becoming the fourth Cowgirl to earn the award. The award is handed out annually to a small portion of the graduating class that “excels in scholarship, leadership and service for the OSU campus and Stillwater community.”
Brown was a team captain and played every game for the Cowgirls during her senior season, but it was her accomplishments off the field that have had a lasting effect on the program. Although she now lives over 1,000 miles away from Stillwater, Brown is excited to know that her legacy lives on.
“I think it is awesome that the coaches and players are motivated to continue to hold this event and continue to raise awareness,” Brown said. “Makes me feel proud to be a Cowgirl.”
BENCH GETS INVOLVED
After securing a 3-0 lead against the Bulldogs, Colin Carmichael and his staff began resting its starters and inserting sparsely-used reserves into the game. For those players, this was the reward for challenging the starters every day during practice.
“The reserve players deserved to play,” Dike said. “We’ve had a rough season so far, playing really good teams. Everyone’s been working really hard, and I’m glad everybody got a chance to play today.”
Several of the team’s veteran players said that it was fun to see some of their lesser known teammates get a chance to shine.
“It was awesome,” Mercado said. “They deserve it. Nobody gives them credit for how hard they work. They’re in practice working their butt off every single day, just like we are. They are so important to this team, just like everybody, and they deserved to play tonight.”
Carmichael said that he hoped to involve as many reserves as possible in the match whenever the situation called for it.
“Those kids work so hard all year, and they don’t get the reward of a Courtney Dike and an Allie Stephenson,” Carmichael said. “It’s the right thing to do. Those kids earn it, and they deserve it.”
Sophomore Katie Howard and junior Madeline Wood both saw their first official action as members of the Cowgirls. Backup goalkeeper Ashton Hierholzer made her second appearance of the season after replacing starter Michela Ongaro for the final 15 minutes of the game.
KIELY SITS OUT
Senior defender Delaney Kiely sat out a game for the first time since her freshman season due to a minor injury.
“She took a little knock on Sunday against Texas,” Carmichael said. “It was more precautionary. We expect to have her back Friday.
Kiely was an active bystander on the OSU sideline, for she spent the whole game instructing her team from the bench.
“I can’t wait to get her back on the field, because I got tired of listening to her in the second half,” Carmichael said. “She actually said that before the game, that this was going to be a nightmare. She was real positive, and she was yelling encouragement all the time. That’s what you expect from one of your leaders.”
LAURENE STEPS IN
With Kiely out, sophomore Laurene Tresfield stepped into the starting lineup. Tresfield was active all game, frequently stepping up into the midfield to make challenges and clearing several balls from the backline.
“I thought she played great,” Carmichael said. “She really did. She didn’t miss a beat.”
It was Tresfield’s ninth start of the season, but only her fourth at her natural position of center back.
“She’s actually a defender, but when she came here, we had a need in the holding midfield,” Carmichael said. “We’ve played her as a defensive center mid. So she probably felt more comfortable tonight than she has for the whole season. She looked great.”
Photo courtesy of OSU Athletics.