The No. 12 Lady Vols (11-1, 4-1) are off to their best start in the Brian Pensky coaching era, and they look to continue their success on the road this weekend against a strong South Carolina team.
Tennessee’s road contest comes after a 2-0 win over Florida on Thursday night.
“I thought we played really well as a team,” freshman forward Jordan Fusco said. “That should give us some good momentum going into South Carolina on Sunday.”
Fusco had one of the Lady Vols’ 2 goals in Thursday’s contest.
Fusco is one of Tennessee’s freshmen that has been making noise this season, and Pensky continues to praise his young players.
“Obviously you have to be a good player. You’ve got to be confident,” Pensky said. “For Jordan and Taylor, it’s a little more challenging because they’ve only been on campus for a month and half. That speaks to their talent. They’re technical, they’re fit, they have great brains and they can make plays on the attack.”
Junior forward Claudia Dipasupil got the Lady Vols’ first goal of the game Thursday on a penalty kick. Dipasupil is now tied for the most goals on the team this season with 6, along with Jaida Thomas and Taylor Huff.
“Claudia really grew a lot last year in the fall from a defending standpoint and was really responsible defensively, and that’s why she got on the field,” Pensky said. “Then she took a lot of corner kicks and got a lot of assists in the fall.”
Dipasupil’s growth last season was halted by a knee surgery in the spring, but Pensky said he has seen her bounce back quickly this season.
“She was a little slow getting going this fall,” Pensky said. “But every time she steps on the field, she gets a goal or an assist and thankfully that has continued.”
South Carolina (9-3, 4-1) currently sits right at 12 points on the season, alongside Tennessee. Pensky expects the Lady Gamecocks to have a chip on their shoulder coming into the game.
“It would be a big win on any level,” Pensky said. “It’s a team that sits as 12 points, same as us. We played them the last game of the season last year for the SEC East championship. We beat them 1-0, I’m sure they remember that and have a bad taste in their mouth.”
South Carolina is coming off of its first SEC loss of the year on Thursday to Ole Miss on the road.
Sunday’s contest means a lot for both teams, and Pensky is hoping to seize this opportunity to prove his team.
“They have a good RPI, so it’s a good opportunity for them, and we have a good RPI so it’s a good opportunity for us,” Pensky said. “There are a lot of things at play on Sunday, we just have to focus on playing well and hope for a good result.”
Aside from the challenge of playing a difficult team, the Lady Vols also have the challenge of making a quick recovery, both physically and mentally, from Thursday’s contest.
“Our strength and condition coaches do a great job at helping us with recovery,” Huff said. “Overall, we have the best athletic staff that I could ask for. They help us out a lot knowing what to do, what not to do. It’s going to be really important to recover as always.”
Tennessee and South Carolina will kickoff at 2 p.m. EST on Sunday, and the game will be broadcasted on ESPNU.