After two straight home wins against Southeastern Louisiana and Cincinnati, the Tennessee soccer team is heading back north to face the University of Massachusetts Minutewomen.
The 20th ranked Lady Vols (5-1) travel to UMass to take on their 3-2-1 soccer team.
Tennessee head coach Brian Pensky was asked about his team’s preparation for their road trip.
“I feel like [Wednesday] will be a good day of training,” Pensky said. “We trained on Monday, but that was more of a recovery. We did some work with the kids that didn’t play on Sunday, and now we’ll really turn our attention to UMass.”
Massachusetts, in their 2-1 loss to Harvard, passed the ball nearly 650 times. In their match against Boston College, they gave up just six shots. In short, the Minutewomen are a team that likes to dominate the possession stat.
“We have a full five days to prepare for this team,” Pensky said. “That’s the beauty of a one game week. They’re a really good team, they’re going to be one of the best possession teams, if not the best possession teams, we will have played all season.”
Pensky was also vocal of Massachusetts high passing numbers.
“That’s really unheard of at the college level,” Pensky said. “They completed close to 80% of those passes. They’re going to be a soccer playing team, a cerebral team, and we have to figure out how to stop that.”
The Lady Vols have also been a very dominating possession team, controlling the possession in every game except their lone loss to Rutgers earlier in the season. Tennessee has put up consistently strong offensive numbers, as well, with multiple games having more than 15 shots, and multiple games with three or more goals.
“The thing I like about that is, our team responds to challenges,” Pensky said of his team's ability to perform. “We’ve got some strong, stubborn, gutsy kind of kids in our locker room that like challenges like that.”
For Tennessee to be able to win again on the road, they will need players to step up and be leaders on the field. Pensky helped identify those leaders.
“Everyone,” Pensky said. “Defending, we always try to defend from the front. We talk a lot about not giving away goals with your backs and your goalkeepers. If you’re going to play at a high level, no matter how skillful you are, you have to be able to play both ways.”
Sonia Ouenche Salón is one of many players Pensky highlighted. Salón scored her first career goal as a defenseman in the Lady Vols last game versus Cincinnati. He also highlighted MA Vignola, Tennessee’s leading scorer and shot-taker. She has totaled two goals and 22 shots this season, all before SEC play.
Senior Katie Cousins, who ranked in Top Drawer Soccer’s Top 5 preseason players, is also one of the Lady Vols top leaders.
“It’s really good knowing we’re going into SEC play soon,” Cousins said of her team’s depth. “We’re gonna need people to score goals, and the more players we can have contributing to that, the better.”
Tennessee now have 10 players who have scored goals this season.
The Lady Vols have to maintain their current form of dominant offense to win against the Minutewomen.
Tennessee will take the field on Sunday, September 15th in Amherst, Massachusetts. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.