The Tennessee soccer team improved to 4-1 on the year Thursday, defeating Southeastern Louisiana 2-0.
After a slow start, the Lady Vols dominated the Lions in another strong defensive showing while outshooting them 18-0.
Here are three takeaways.
Vignola leads Vols in shots
For the fourth time in five games, senior MA Vignola led the Lady Vols in shots, tallying eight shots. As Tennessee tries to find an offensive rhythm in 2019, especially after the graduation of Bunny Shaw, Vignola has stepped up in a big way thus far.
While none of her shots found the back of the net Thursday, she forced the Lions’ goalkeeper to make some tough plays, and put constant pressure on the defense, helping open up scoring opportunities for the Lady Vols.
“Obviously her speed and her speed with the ball,” Tennessee head coach Brian Pensky said of Vignola’s effectiveness. “Her ability to ball strike is the best on our team. Unquestionably and with both feet. Anytime she’s on the ball in the final third she’s a threat to score.”
The Lady Vols have struggled to get shots at times this season, recording only seven shots in last week’s loss to Rutgers, but Tennessee improved on that number versus Southeastern Louisiana, tallying 18 total.
“We had some good chances,” Pensky said. “Their keeper made some big plays. My mind a little bit was forgetting about that and frustrated that it took us so long to get that first goal (39th minute)... 18 shots is good. 11 on frame. You always want to be somewhere close to fifty percent so that’s good.”
Transfers power Lady Vols attack
The transfers of Michelle Alozie and Mackenzie George to Tennessee was one of the biggest storylines in the Lady Vols’ heralded 2019 recruiting class, and the duo showed why Thursday night by scoring both of Tennessee’s goals.
George, a defenseman, scored the Lady Vols first goal, dribbling up the field nearly 40 yards before delivering a rocket across her body that found the back of the net.
“I almost lost the ball a few times there and I was about to stop,” the Cal Poly transfer said. “I saw the goal and some space and I just took it and finished. It’s always the best feeling ever, and to come together with your teammates after is even better.”
With Tennessee dominating the Lions throughout, the Lady Vols’ 1-0 lead felt safe, but Alozie put any doubts to bed in the 79th minute when her header on an Alicia Donley cross extended the lead to 2-0.
“I just saw Alicia (Donley) make a really good run and we’ve been practicing on getting to the end line, crossing it, and being sure we have numbers in the box,” Alozie said. “I just needed to make sure my run was there and I went where the ball was.”
Alozie, who came off the bench, was one of Tennessee’s most effective players Thursday, recording four shots and drawing a foul in the box before missing the ensuing penalty kick.
Defense shines again
Entering the 2019 season the Tennessee soccer team had never held a team scoreless, but after holding Southeastern Louisiana shotless, the Lady Vols have now done it twice this season.
“It’s really encouraging,” George said. “We still have a lot of work to do, but everyone’s coming together and really pushing each other and holding each other accountable, so it’s only going to get better from here.”
A major key to Tennessee’s success on the defensive end is their continued domination in the possession battle. The Lady Vols have routinely won the possession battle this season, and Thursday was no different as they controlled the ball for 61-percent of the game.
“Two games without giving up a shot is pretty cool,” Pensky said. “The best defending is sometimes your attacking and your ability to keep the ball.”
With tonight’s shutout, the Lady Vols have now only allowed two goals in their first five games of the season.”
Tennessee returns to action Sunday afternoon, hosting the Cincinnati Bearcats to Regal Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.