Women's Soccer Prepares for Critical Weekend SEC Games

Now that Vanderbilt women's soccer team (3-6, 1-2 SEC) has gotten its first SEC win under its belt, the Commodores will look to put a winning streak together as they enter an important weekend of conference action. Vanderbilt will hit the road to take on SEC and in-state rival Tennessee at 7 p.m. (EST) Friday in Knoxville, then conclude its trip at 1 p.m. Sunday (EST) against Georgia in Athens, Ga.

With the Commodores standing in fifth place in the SEC Eastern division, they will look to pick up some serious ground on the rest of the divisional teams in hopes of qualifying for the SEC Tournament in early November in Oxford, Miss. The Black and Gold have only six conference game remaining and to qualify for the tournament, they finish the regular season in the top four of the eastern division.

Tennessee and Georgia are two teams Vanderbilt has had success against through the years. In seven meetings with the Lady Volunteers, the Commodores own a 5-2 all-time advantage; however, have lost two-consecutive meetings after winning the first five. On the other hand, Vanderbilt owns a 5-3 advantage all-time against Georgia and has won the two meetings.

Vanderbilt enters Friday night's contest at the UT Soccer Complex coming off a whirlwind weekend. Prior to last Friday's game with Florida, the women's team had not played a home game since its season-opening contest Saint Louis, which meant seven of its first eight games were away from the Vanderbilt Soccer Complex.

The first game back at home did not go as planned, as the Commodores were handed a disappointing 3-0 loss to the Gators. While Vanderbilt dominated in the shot category 18-9, it was not able to capitalize on its opportunities. On the other end, Florida made the most of its chances, as it scored on over 30 percent of its chances.

With Vanderbilt starring a 0-3 start in the face, its game against South Carolina on Sunday was a must win for head coach Ronnie Hill and her squad. The Gamecocks entered with an impressive 9-2 overall record and a 2-0 mark in the SEC.

Once again, the Commodores dominated on the offensive end; however, this time they were able to concert on their chance en route to a 2-0 victory and their first SEC win. Juniors Erin Higgins and Michelle Bruntlett accounted for Vanderbilt's two goals. With the win, the Commodores have now won eight of nine meetings against their eastern division rival. Goalkeeper Esther Thompson also recorded her first shutout as a member of the Commodores. Over her two seasons with Texas A&M, she recorded an amazing 17 shutouts.

Scouting the Lady Volunteers

Tennessee (9-3, 2-0 SEC) enters Friday night's contest ranked No. 21 by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA). Under the tutelage of head coach Angela Kelly, the Lady Volunteers are off to their best start in the program's history despite playing a difficult schedule.

This year's schedule has included games against then No. 21-ranked Duke (L, 1-2 OT), No. 12 Clemson (W, 2-0), No. 2 Stanford (L, 0-2), No. 7 Santa Clara (L, 1-2 OT), No. 20 Auburn (W, 4-2) and No. 7 Wake Forest (W, 2-0).

The Lady Vols possess one of the top offenses in the country, and this is evident by the 33 goals and 40 goals for 106 points they have registered in just 11 games. Senior forward Kim Patrick, who was named SEC Player of the Week this past week, is dangerous every time she touches the ball. Patrick leads the team with eight goals and 41 shots, while also dishing out six assists for a total of 22 points. The former University of North Carolina player will have to be accounted for by the Vanderbilt defense if it is going to have any success.

Midfielder Rhian Wilkinson has been head coach Angela Kelly's go-to player when it comes to setting up scoring opportunities. Wilkinson leads the team with 10 assists, while also having scored four goals. Midfielders Kayla Lockaby, Jen Laughridge and forward Lyndsey Patterson have also made ample contributions to the Lady Volunteer offense. The three have combined for 17 goals, 14 assists and 69 shots.

Tennessee's defense has been solid all season, as it has allowed a mere 14 goals and eight assists in 11 games. Senior goalkeeper Ellen Dean has been solid in net this season, as in a little under 900 minutes of action, she has allowed only 13 goals while making 33 saves. On top of her 1.30 goals against average, she has recorded one shutout, which came against No. 12-ranked Clemson.

Scouting the Bulldogs

Unlike Tennessee, Georgia enters Sunday's contest in a must-win situation. The Bulldogs enter this weekend with a 4-7-1 overall record, but a 0-2 mark in the SEC. Prior to its contest with Vanderbilt, Georgia will play Kentucky Friday evening at the Georgia Soccer Stadium.

The Bulldogs have been on a roller-coaster ride the entire season; however, one reason for this is their difficult non-conference schedule they played. Georgia has already played five teams ranked in the NSCAA Top 25, including No. 14 Clemson (L, 2-3 OT), No. 16 Wake Forest (L, 1-3), No. 8 Connecticut (L, 2-3 2OT), No. 9 Michigan (W, 1-0) and No. 22 Duke (W, 1-0).

Georgia head coach Sue Montagne Patberg is searching for any type of offense. In the first eight games this season, the Bulldogs racked up 18 goals; however, they have totaled only two in the last four games. Georgia has dropped three of these four games, while being shutout in two.

Forward Tricia McKee has been one of the leaders of the Georgia offense. The sophomore leads the team with seven goals, while chipping in with one assist for a total of 15 points. She is one of four players who have recorded 20 or more shots (32). Midfielder Ashley King and forward Geneil Newbern have made themselves noticed on offense, as they have combined for 23 points on eight goals and seven assists.

One thing the Commodores have struggled with is scoring multiple goals in a game. With this in mind, Georgia has been deceptable to giving up goals. The Bulldogs have allowed two ore more goals in seven of their 12 games this season.

Sophomore goalkeeper Ashley Lindsay has played all but 15 minutes in net this season. Through this point in the season, she is allowing 1.67 goals per game. Lindsay has stayed busy this year, as she has recorded 61 saves while allowing 21 goals.




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