The No. 15 Tennessee soccer team travels to Texas A&M on Friday, as it looks to make it three wins in a row.
The Lady Vols’ (9-1) last two games ended up in extra time, as Tennessee bested Auburn in 100 minutes and Missouri in the 106th minute.
A win is a win, but back-to-back double overtime games is quite unusual.
“The mentality is to be our best. The past few games haven’t been our style, we got to play who we are and get in that rhythm,” freshman midfielder Taylor Huff said.
“Any way you can get three points in this league is good. You always want to play well but you got to find a way to get a result. Sometimes they come easier than others. Both of those were difficult and took a lot out of us,” head coach Brian Pensky said. “Friday is going to be no different. Our kids will be ready to go and compete at a high level.”
Huff, who scored the game-winner against Auburn, is now the second Vol to earn SEC Freshman of the Week honors. The first was midfielder Jordan Fusco. Huff has also been given he nickname “Freshman Phenom” by her teammates. Despite such accolades, Huff tries not to add any expectations or pressure.
“My motivation is to continue to keep doing well. It’s continuing to do the work and continuing to play how I should, to hopefully earn it again,” Huff said.
“I’m really happy for those kids. They’re awesome kids and awesome players. They’re also great students. Taylor Huff was the National Scholar Athlete of the year coming out of high school. Everybody loves Jordan (Fusco). They’re great kids and great players,” Pensky said. “They work really hard and care about being good. We’re a fortunate staff to have kids like that in our program.”
After the Missouri game, Tennessee is up to 30 goals and 231 shots on the season – 108 on goal – with an average of 23.1 shots per game. This is still a high number, given how competitive SEC play can be. One area where Tennessee lacks is corner kicks, both converting and defending against them. Tennessee is second in the nation in corner kicks (92) yet struggles to successfully convert.
“We worked on that in training, in terms of defending corner kicks. We’ve got to be a bit stronger on that, take a little more pride in that,” Pensky said. “It hasn’t been the first balls that have hurt us. It’s been second balls, balls dropping, landing, and second kids getting onto those. A&M, they’ve got some pretty good height. They got some kids who can serve balls, so we’re going to need to be prepared to defend that better than we have in the last two SEC games.”
Tennessee has continuously been dominant on the defensive side. While they only have 30 saves, the Lady Vols have limited their opponents to 83 shots across 10 games, with difficulty being ramped up since the start of SEC play.
“This game is about creating chances,” Pensky said. “We’ve been a pretty dangerous team. Maybe can our conversion rate be a little higher, but that will all come. We’ve just got to keep playing hard. When we play hard, we limit the opponents and create a lot for ourselves”
Texas A&M (5-5-1) is looking to end a three-game losing streak, all of which came against teams ranked within the top-15. The team is outscoring opponents 22-11 this season. The Aggies also have a talented freshman to look out for.
Maile Hayes leads the team with 5 goals and a .500 shot-on-goal percentage. A&M is currently dealing with players being out due to injuries and COVID, so they may not have an ideal lineup against Tennessee.
“A&M was picked second in the league,” Pensky said. “The last couple of games they have been missing a few kids due to injury and maybe COVID. I’m not sure if they will have those kids back, but nonetheless, with or without those kids they are a very good team. It will be a tall challenge- it’s one of the toughest places to play in the league.”
One thing to watch for is if Tennessee can end this match during regulation, after both of its last two matches went into double overtime.
Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. EST in College Station, Texas.