The No. 12 Lady Vols return to Regal Soccer Stadium to take on Florida after two road contests against Missouri and Texas A&M.
Tennessee (10-1, 3-1 SEC) went undefeated on its road trip, defeating Missouri 2-1 and Texas A&M 3-1.
“Anytime you can get three points and a win in this league it matters,” head coach Brian Pensky said. “If you can do it on the road its even better. We’ve been good at home so hopefully we can get a little support Thursday night and be happy in comfortable in our own surroundings.”
The two wins on the road improved the Lady Vols’ win streak to three games, and Pensky is hoping the games will boost the team’s confidence.
“It’s huge in terms of getting the points but its also huge in continuing to build our team’s confidence by beating good teams,” Pensky said. “We’ve got a group that believes and plays hard and is confident and really wants to win. Those are all really good recipes.”
“I think that our momentum is really good right now. We have a lot of confidence knowing that we can do it. beating some good teams is really big,” sophomore Jaida Thomas said.
Thomas had 2 goals in Tennessee’s game against Texas A&M.
Florida (3-6-3, 2-1-1) comes to Knoxville following a 1-0 loss to Ole Miss last week. The Gators have had a shaky start to the year, but Pensky is careful not to overlook them.
“They had a really difficult non-conference schedule,” Pensky said. “They’re very much battle tested. They played the best teams in the country, so they’re not going to be scared of Tennessee. Even though they didn’t have a great non-conference record, they kind of got a second chance at life with SEC play.”
Florida had a non-conference schedule that featured four ranked opponents, including the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in Florida State and North Carolina.
One point of emphasis for the Lady Vols this week will be coming out early. In the last four games, Tennessee didn’t score until the second half.
“We gave up an early goal against Arkansas, we gave up an early goal against Mizzou, we gave up 2 shots on goal in the first five minutes against Auburn,” Pensky said. “Going into that A&M game that was a real big focus of ours and our kids started well. Bottom line is we just have to come out and compete and limit opponents’ chances and hopefully a goal comes out of that.”
The Lady Vols have a big stretch of games coming up, as they will play three SEC opponents in eight days: Florida on Thursday, South Carolina on Sunday and Mississippi State next week.
“There’s so much on the line in the next eight days,” Pensky said. “We’re trying to compete for an SEC Championship overall and an SEC East Championship. We’ve only played one SEC East game, and we’ve got two SEC East games this weekend.”
The Lady Vols and Gators will play at 7 p.m. EST Thursday night at Regal Soccer Stadium.