The undefeated Lady Vols head to Tampa, Florida, on Thursday to take on their toughest opponent so far this season, South Florida.
The Tennessee soccer team is coming off another strong week of play, where it defeated Tennessee Tech 6-0 and Louisiana 4-0.
“Coming off a win we want to keep it going,” freshman forward Taylor Huff said. “Going to USF is going to be huge for us on the national level. If we want to be respected, we just have to go in and win this game. We just have to keep pushing through.”
Huff is coming off another strong week of play where she scored in both of Tennessee’s games.
South Florida has had a strong season and has seen a lot of competition, including three SEC teams. The Bulls defeated Kentucky and Florida, but lost to LSU.
The Bulls' loss against LSU came down to the literal last minute of play. Both teams got off 11 shots, and LSU just happened to get one more to go in the goal in the 89th minute. The Tigers took the game 2-1.
South Florida bounced back quickly on Sunday with a 2-1 win over Kentucky. The Bulls dominated the Wildcats, outshooting them 20-3.
The Lady Vols have yet to see an opponent as strong as the Bulls this season.
“I think we’re going to be under more pressure this Thursday night than we have been,” head coach Brian Pensky said.
“Even against Alabama, we did a pretty good job of shutting them down and not allowing a ton of shots. This is going to be our toughest challenge."
“I don’t know if we have played against an attacking core, a possession core like we will this Thursday night.”
Tennessee’s defense has been a fortress this season, not allowing any goals thus far as well as limiting its opponents in shots. The Lady Vols will look to continue that success against a team that focuses on attacking and getting shots off.
“The defense as a whole takes every game as a hard challenge,” junior defender Tara Katz said. “We want to get better each game, whether it’s with possession or rest defending. It’s just another opportunity for us to grow. Everyone’s done extremely well in the back.”
Facing a team like South Florida is Tennessee’s first opportunity to prove themselves as a top team in the NCAA this year. The undefeated record through four games looks good, but without a solid win, the Lady Vols haven’t solidified their spot at the top just yet.
Tennessee’s wins are nice from a logistical standpoint, but Pensky also sees the affect winning and success has on his team’s overall confidence.
“A lot hinges upon RPI,” Pensky said. “You need wins to help build your RPI and it also hopefully helps give our team confidence. Hopefully our kids feel pretty good about themselves.”
Thursday’s game between the Lady Vols and the Bulls will take place at 7 p.m. ET at Corbett Stadium.