The Tennessee soccer team (2-2) won its second home match of the season as they defeated the Missouri Tigers (1-2) by a score of 2-1.
Here are three takeaways from the match.
Defense bends but does not break
In a tough, physical matchup the Vols, defense led the way to victory tonight. Since giving up three goals in their season opener against Alabama, the Vols’ defense, led by sophomore goalkeeper Lindsey Romig, have allowed just two goals in three games.
It was not a cakewalk for Tennessee, as Missouri’s offense put plenty of pressure on the Vols. Mizzou had 19 shots, nine shots on goal and six corner kicks on the night. The later third of the second half was especially trying for the Vols’ defense, as the Tigers had seven shots and scored a goal in that span.
“We knew that they were going to come flying at us, and we had to be prepared for anything," Romig said. "I think we handled it pretty well in the first half. We knew, being up a goal, that they were just going to come even faster. I think we did a good job limiting their chances. I think we got lucky on a couple of them, but our defense in general did a good job tonight."
Romig had eight saves on the night, which tied her career high.
Missouri’s lone goal of the night came in the 79th minute. Midfielder Zoe Cross launched a long range shot from the right corner that Roming was unable to corral. It was the first goal of Cross’ career and it cut Tennessee’s lead in half, but the defense remained stout until the final seconds of the game, when Romig tipped another Cross shot above the goal post.
“The last five minutes were really hectic. We knew it was going to be like that, especially being only up one goal,” Romig said. “I had to be ready and set at any time because I knew they were going to be shooting from far. Since no one was really around (Cross) I knew she was going to shoot, and I just had to be ready to get up there.”
Vols’ offense breaks out
It is no secret that Tennessee’s offense has struggled to produce goals this season. For as well as the backline have been playing, it has been quite the opposite for the Tennessee front. The Vols scored just twice in their first three games. They matched that total tonight.
The Vols’ first goal came in the final seconds of the first half. A foul from Missouri senior Mo Adesanmi led to a Tennessee free kick. Sophomore Claudia Dipasupil took the kick and connected with sophomore Alicia Donley on a header to put the Vols ahead 1-0 entering halftime.
"Claudia did a great job of just getting the ball in there," Donley said. "I saw the opportunity and beat my defender. In practice this week, we've been working on a lot of headers. I knew that was something I had a strength, of just getting in the air. I was super confident going into that, and just knew we needed it before halftime."
The Vols’ second score came in the 71st minute. Junior Makenzie George served a ball into the box, and Dipasupil made contact to set redshirt freshman Jaida Thomas up in close range. Thomas shot the ball into the upper left corner with her left foot to give Tennessee a 2-0 lead.
Thomas got the first start of her career and scored her second game-winning goal of the 2020 campaign. So far this season, the Texas native leads the team in goals (2), is second in shots (7) and third in shots on goal (4).
Tennessee makes up divisional ground
In an eight game, all SEC schedule, each game carries a little extra weight. So, after going 1-2 through their first three matches, the Vols knew they needed to bounce back with a big win, and they stepped up to the challenge tonight.
"In my first year here in 2012, Missouri came here ranked 11th in the country, and I think this is the best Missouri team since then,” head coach Brian Pensky said. "We knew coming in that they were going to be a handful, athletic, physical and good. Just a gutsy performance for us. Three points in this league are really tough to come by. Thankful we got back to 2-2 tonight.”
The Vols’ 2-1 win gave the team three more points in the standings, bringing their total on the year to six, and brought the team into sole possession of third place in the SEC East. Each team in the SEC is very competitive this season, so any ground in the standings Tennessee can gain is crucial heading into the second half of the season.
Tennessee’s next match is next Sunday, Oct. 18 against Kentucky. The Wildcats (0-3) are seeking their first win of the season despite playing competitive soccer. Kickoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. in Lexington and will be nationally broadcast on ESPNU.