The Tennessee soccer team (1-1) will face No. 8 Georgia (1-0-1) in Athens on Friday at 7 p.m. ET.
Here are three things to know before the match.
The Lady Vols took their home opener over No. 10 Vanderbilt in a 1-0 overtime win. The victory was Tennessee’s first against Vanderbilt since 2013 and the first win over a top-10 opponent since defeating No. 5 Texas A&M on Oct. 21, 2018.
It was a competitive and physical match for the Lady Vols. Both teams were unable to get much going offensively, as excellent play by the defense and keepers prevailed. Regulation ended in a scoreless tie, and Tennessee headed into overtime looking for a way to upset its in-state rival.
Just two minutes into overtime, the Lady Vols earned a corner kick. Junior Hannah Tillett kicked it in, senior Wrenne French won a head ball in the box, junior Mackenzie George corralled it and redshirt freshman Jaida Thomas scored the game-winner for the Lady Vols.
“Over the years . . . it’s become a pretty good rivalry,” head coach Brian Pensky said. “I told them probably nobody out there thought that the 2020 Tennessee soccer team was going to be the one that would break this streak. For this group to do it, it could be a team defining win.”
Several Lady Vols have been recognized this past week for their efforts against Vanderbilt. Jaida Thomas took home the SEC Freshman of the Week honor and Wrenne French was named to the TopDrawerSoccer.com Team of the Week, with Thomas and sophomore keeper Lindsey Romig named as honorable mentions to the team as well.
Thomas had the best game of her young career Sunday afternoon. Coming off the bench, she logged 51 minutes against the Commodores, including three shots and two shots on goal. She also scored the golden goal in overtime to secure the win. Thomas will likely still have a role off the bench against Georgia.
“What a nice honor for Jaida,” Pensky said. "Hats off to her, because she was also the one who created the corner kick to set up the game-winner. Then it became a team play. Great ball in from Hannah Tillett, Wrenne French got above everyone and won the head ball, Mackenzie George kept the play alive by screening their keeper, and then Jaida just hunted down that loose ball and tucked it in the corner.”
"A well-deserved recognition for Jaida, with her teammates doing the things that put her in a place to make that play."
French also had an important role in the shutout of Vanderbilt. She played all 92 minutes at center back for the Lady Vols defense that shutout Haley Hopkins and the Vanderbilt offense. French had a pivotal role in the lone goal scored as well. Off the corner kick, she won an important head ball that eventually led to Thomas’ goal.
Romig notched her fourth-career solo shutout against Vanderbilt. She faced 11 shots and made two saves on her way to the honorable mention.
French and Romig lead the Tennessee defense looking to win its second consecutive match against a top-10 ranked opponent. Friday will mark the first time the Lady Vols have played twice in a row against a top-10 team since September of 2006.
Scouting the Bulldogs
Georgia will be a tough matchup for Tennessee. The Bulldogs enter the match ranked eighth in the nation and sit in first place in the SEC East with a record of 1-0-1. Georgia opened its season with a 1-0 victory over South Carolina and last week tied with Florida 1-1.
The Bulldogs had five players named to the SEC Preseason Watchlist: junior midfielder Abby Boyan, sophomore forward Chloe Chapman, senior defender Kayla Bruster, junior defender Cecily Stoute and junior keeper Emory Wegener.
“[Georgia’s] good. They’re very athletic,” Pensky said. “They play actually a 3-5-2 similar shape to what Vanderbilt does. They’ve got some great athletes in the back, some amazing soccer players as well. Good possession team. They’ve always been a good possession team. They have a couple of real special athletes up top.”
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. ET and will be televised on SEC Network.