The Tennessee soccer team is in the midst of a fierce position battle.
The Lady Vols find themselves in a very good spot to build upon the success of last year, when the team was able to fight their way into the NCAA tournament Elite Eight for the first time in program history.
Tennessee is used to success and consistency in the net. The keeper for their historic 2018 season was Shae Yanez, who started all 22 games of the season. Yanez had 89 saves in 2018, along with an astounding 0.856 save percentage.
But Yanez leaves very large shoes to fill between the sticks, and the competition in the goal is between freshman Lindsey Romig and redshirt sophomore Charli Pogany.
Romig, a first-year player from Virginia, is walking into her freshman year with a chance to take over the starting goalkeeper job. Before attending Tennessee as an early enrollee last spring, Roming attended the IMG Academy in Florida and was ranked as the fourth overall keeper in IMG Academy’s Top 150. She was also a member of the U.S. Youth National Team from U-15 to U-17 and was a member of the United States Women’s National Team for the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Uruguay.
While at Tennessee, Romig started her first game against Fordham. The Lady Vols won that game 3-1. Romig only played for the first half of the game so head coach Brian Pensky could get a feel for both of his goalies.
“We’ve got to keep playing on the floor,” Pensky said of a discussion between him and his freshman keeper. “We’ve got to keep getting better at building out; she did that, and it helped us.”
Romig came in at halftime in the Lady Vols’ second game against Mercer and did not record a save, nor allow a goal because the opposing team failed to get a shot off.
The other competitor Charli Pogany is a redshirt sophomore also from Florida. Pogany started her collegiate career at Georgetown University. She was redshirted her freshman year before transferring to Tennessee.
Prior to her college career, Pogany was a member of the Region III Olympic Development Program in 2015-16. She lead her club team to the State Cup Championship in 2016 and was also selected as the Goalkeeper of the Year in 2017.
Pogany has played in two halves so far in 2019. She played in the second half in the Vols 3-1 win versus Fordham. She recorded two saves but gave up the opponents only goal in the 89th minute.
“In those last moments, I think we had eight freshman on the field,” Pensky said in defense of his sophomore keeper. “So a little bit of just youth and immaturity there.”
In Tennessee’s second game of the year against Mercer, Pogany came in at halftime but saw little action as Mercer got no shots against her or Romig.
Both goalkeepers show a lot of promise, and there is much time to develop as underclassmen. Romig comes in with a lot of experience and achievements most college freshman can not claim. Pogany, on the other hand, has even more experience as a redshirt sophomore.
“It’s really fun to watch them just compete,” senior Katie Cousins said of her team’s goalkeepers after their first game. “They both play really well. They’re both talking well; they’re both moving the ball well and making big saves.”
Coach Pensky does not have a strict timeline as to when he would like to name a starter in the goal, but he does want to cut it down to one keeper.
“It’s all TBD,” Pensky said. “They’re both doing well right now. They both have done enough and deserve to be playing.”
Fans will have to keep waiting for a starter to be named, but this will be an interesting story to keep an eye on as the Lady Vols look to fill out their permanent roster for 2019.
Tennessee looks to improve to 3-0 as they take on their first road trip of the year. They kickoff at 7 p.m. on Thursday at Rutgers.