The Lady Vols have found what they lost.
Tennessee (8-4-1), clad in pink uniforms for breast cancer awareness night, found their second straight win, defeating Georgia (5-6-2) 1-0 at Regal Stadium on Thursday.
With SEC play well under way, it is necessary for all teams to play with a physical demeanor, and win balls.
Tennessee and Georgia both executed with a high level of physicality.
Georgia dominated the possession in the first half, but Tennessee did not let the Bulldogs get much going offensively, as they only totaled four shots in the first half.
Tennessee on the other hand, was not able to find the ball as often in the first half, but when they did they were much more efficient. They were able to find six shots, with two hitting the crossbar.
There was a total of ten fouls in the first half alone. Georgia was responsible for seven of those ten fouls.
“It’s soccer,” head coach Brian Pensky said. “It’s 45 minute halves, it’s no timeouts, it’s player adjustments, it’s them kind of feeling out the game and having to respond to challenges. They adjusted and got better.”
The game began to get more physical early in the second half. Three yellow cards were given in a span of ten minutes. Georgia’s Cecily Stoute was given a yellow card which set up MA Vignola’s penalty kick, the lone goal of the evening. Another bulldog, Weldon Kolker was given a yellow card in the 53rd minute.The Lady Vols’ Maya Neal was given a yellow card in the following minute after trying to win a ball.
A fourth yellow card was given to the Bulldogs’ Caroline Chipman after a hard collision with a Tennessee player.
The referees were happy to give out more cards, as Georgia’s Haley Sorrell earned her team’s fourth card of the night, and fifth overall in the 78th minute after charging into Tennessee’s keeper, Lindsey Romig.
Georgia closed the night out with a total of 19 fouls.
Big second half
Tennessee came out playing from behind in the first half. They were outmanned and out played with little possession percentage.
That changed after halftime.
“Just belief and confidence,” Pensky said when asked about his halftime speech. “When we walked into the locker room we could tell there was a buzz and an energy, a ‘let’s freaking go’ mentality.”
Coach Pensky’s message to the team sparked a fire as the Lady Vols came out and dominated the early second half. They started the second half faster and more physical, which lead to their only goal within two minutes of the half.
They continued to be more dominant as the second half continued, stopping Georgia from getting a goal on the board.
Tennessee finds their offense
Tennessee came out in the second half with another dominating performance on offense.
The lone goal of the night came from MA Vignola’s right foot. She made a charge for the goal but was shoved from behind by Georgia’s Sotute. Vignola lined up for the penalty kick and let the crowd’s loud, but supportive stomping soak in as the whistle blew. She revved up her energy slowly and unleashed a powerful bullet into the top right corner of the net.
The Volunteers started SEC play with lots of injuries and a slow offense. They struggled to eclipse 10 shots in their first three conference matches, and struggled to find a win.
“It feels good; we just went through a rough patch,” Pensky said. “Our team comes together, and they decided, ‘we’re burying the past.’ What’s over is over, what has been, has been, and we have to move forward.”
Coach Pensky’s team has certainly found their offense, and their last two wins have proven them to be a powerful force heading deeper into conference play.
The Lady Vols have found their mojo, as they will head to Missouri this weekend to take on the Tigers (6-5-1). The match will be streamable on SEC Network Plus. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. EST.