Mississippi State soccer coach Neil Macdonald saw the work ethic of freshman forward Elisabeth Sullivan in the preseason and decided to give her a starting spot.
Macdonald can be glad that he did.
Sullivan has been one of the bright spots through three matches for the Bulldogs with one goal and two assists. She had her first goal of the season and an assist to help MSU defeat the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles 3-0 Sunday at the Starkville Sportsplex Soccer Complex.
"I'm been trying my hardest," Sullivan said. "I knew it would be hard to get a position. I'm glad it came out this way."
It has been an adjustment to Southeastern Conference soccer for Sullivan, but one she has made quickly."
"I didn't play the same formation in high school and club (soccer)," Sullivan said. "Once I got that down, it started clicking and I knew what I had to do."
Macdonald said Sullivan deserved immediate playing time.
"She's got a great attitude and works very hard in practice every day," Macdonald said. "She listens and retains the information we give her. I thought she played really well today."
It was Sullivan's assist at the 16:18 mark of the first half with a cross into the box that led to goal by Jasmine Simmons at point blank range.
The Bulldogs out-shot the Golden Eagles 12-3 in the first 45 minutesÂ with seven of those shots coming between the posts.
Simmons said it was important for MSU (2-1) to get off to a good start against Southern Miss after losing a 3-0 decision to UAB on Friday.
"We definitely didn't want to repeat Friday," Simmons said. "That wasn't a very good start for us so we started out a lot better this game."
At the 31:48 mark of the first half, Sullivan took it upon herself to score off a free kick.
Sullivan seemed to shrug off her personal contributions and said teamwork was the reason the Bulldogs experienced success against the Golden Eagles.
"We started passing the ball around really well," Sullivan said. "We just all played together and it really helps to do that. We knew what we had to come out and so we took care of it."
MSU only took four shots on goal in the second half, but one of those was a score on a header by Madison McKee.
Macdonald was pleased with the way the Bulldogs moved the ball around to create scoring opportunities.
"I thought we played really well, particularly in the first half obviously," Macdonald said. "The girls did what we asked them to do.
"We're trying different things and moving our personnel around quite a bit in the three games we've played and we're learning a lot about ourselves. Hopefully, we'll be ready come SEC."
After participating in the Trojan Classic in Troy, Ala., against Troy on Sept. 3 and South Alabama on Sept. 5, MSU returns home to play Mississippi Valley State on Sept. 7.
The Bulldogs played their first two home matches at the Starkville Sportsplex Soccer Complex due to the recent renovations to the surface at the on-campus facility.
"We really appreciate the opportunity to come and play here," Macdonald said, "We've been training here our whole preseason and it's been great. Everyone has worked real well with us. It's been a plus for us and we'll be happy to get back on our field in two weeks."
The MSU soccer field received a new sand-based playing surface that included new sub-surface drainage and irrigation systems.