The Tennessee soccer team (2-2-1) returns home for a matchup with No. 9 Texas A&M (3-1) Friday night at 7 p.m. It will be the Vols’ third time this season playing a top-10 nationally ranked team.
Here are three things to know before the match.
Last Sunday in Lexington, the Vols played Kentucky to a 1-1 draw. The match had an exciting beginning. In just the second minute of the match, junior Abbey Burdette scored her first career goal to give the Vols an early 1-0 lead.
The goal came on a corner kick from sophomore Claudia Dipasupil, and Burdette was able to knock it in on a header. The lead would not last for long, as Kentucky’s Julia Grosso scored in the sixth minute to even the match at one.
“They scored so quickly back, that I don’t really think the game had settled in, and all of a sudden it's 1-1,” head coach Brian Pensky said.
This score would remain for the next 104 minutes, as neither team was able to scratch across a goal, despite numerous scoring chances.
Junior Mackenzie George and redshirt freshman Jaida Thomas tallied seven and six shots respectively, and the Vols had a two-minute stretch in the first overtime where they were awarded four corner kicks.
“We got 22 shots, but I really don’t feel like we were that dangerous in the game,” Pensky said. “They were organized, and they kept dropping off, and it made it hard for us to get behind them. So, you know, bummer result.”
The Wildcats brought plenty of pressure in both overtime periods, but excellent play from sophomore goalkeeper Lindsey Romig kept the match tied at 1-1.
Scouting the Aggies
Texas A&M poses a tough matchup for the Vols. The Aggies come into Knoxville ranked No. 9 in the nation, and it will be Tennessee’s third time playing a top-10 team this season.
Texas A&M is one of the most balanced teams in the nation in regard to offense and defense. They are the only team in the SEC to rank among the top three in both goals per game and goals-against average. The Aggies lead the league in goals per game at 2.25, while ranking third in goals-against average at 0.75.
Texas A&M also has five players ranked in the top 20 on the InStat Index ratings, which rates players through an algorithm based on their performance. Addie McCain (4), Jimena Lopez (11), Barbara Olivieri (13), Karlina Sample (19) and Macie Kolb (20) all highlight the Index.
“They always have one of the best programs in our league.” Pensky said. “This team’s a little different than years past. They’re pretty heavy possession-oriented team. They want to out-possess you and pass you to death in some ways. But they still have the ability to get at you and put a knife in your heart.”
The Vols have historically had success against the Aggies. Tennessee owns a 6-1 all-time record against Texas A&M, including a perfect 4-0 record at home.
Key to win
A victory over a top-10 team is not out of the realm of question for this group. This same Vols team beat Vanderbilt 1-0 earlier this season and played a very close match in the loss to Georgia.
Pensky believes his team can be successful against Texas A&M, but it starts in their preparation and mindset.
“They’re going to come in here and want to beat us up,” Pensky said. “We’ve got to physically and mentally show up and be women. And be prepared to smack them back.”
“We’ve got to take our chances well, but before we even get to that point, we’ve got to play like women. We’ve got to show up and be ready to match their swagger and confidence and womanness, if that’s a word.”
The match will be played in Regal Soccer Stadium, where the Vols are undefeated this season.
Tennessee will wear pink jerseys for the third straight year as they recognize Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The Vols have won each game they have played in the pink jerseys.
The match will kickoff at 7 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on SEC Network+.