The Tennessee Lady Vols secured an SEC East division championship following a 1-0 win over South Carolina Friday night in Knoxville.
The squad improves to 4-3-1 following the victory as South Carolina drops to 6-2 on the season. Coming into the game Tennessee had 10 points, trailing just South Carolina who had 12. The Lady Vols needed an outright win to secure the championship and they delivered in a tense matchup.
The first half of the game was tense and slow despite the stakes. Lady Vols coach Brian Penske went as far as to say the first half was, “eerily quiet.”
Tennessee won the battle of possession early on as they dominated the ball in the first half and early on in the second.
In the 49th minute on senior night, captain center back Wrenne French delivered her first goal of the season which ended up being the deciding goal.
Claudia Dipasupil served up her SEC leading fifth assist on a corner that bounced around the penalty area before finding French’s head and the back of the net.
“I think our mentality has been very strong and focused this season,” Dipasupil said following the championship clinching win.
With the stakes high and a championship on the line the physicality of the game picked up down the stretch. Late in the game SEC All-Freshman goalie Lindsey Romig suffered a nasty collision which was her second in the last three games.
“I think she got a pretty good dead leg,” Pensky said. “Hats off to her.”
After the goal, the intensity of the game clearly picked up as yellow cards were drawn by both teams chasing down 50/50 balls for their respective sides.
With about ten minutes remaining South Carolina decided to press the issue and move its center back to the top of the formation in search of the equalizing goal. When asked about packing the box as a defensive strategy coach Pensky said they adjusted by dropping forward Mackenzie George back into the midfield.
“We shifted from a 4-4-2 to more of a 4-5-1,” Pensky said.
The collision with Romig afforded Pensky the opportunity to communicate with his defense and straighten out the game plan with his squad.
The division championship is the program's first since 2008 and coach Pensky’s first since taking over the program.
The win is the first the Lady Vols have had over South Carolina since 2012 and the first win at Regal Soccer Stadium since 2007.
Tennessee began the night by honoring seniors Wrenne French and Erin Gilroy. Gilroy secured All-SEC honors in her tenure as a Lady Vols by earning second team honors in 2018 before suffering a devastating knee injury last season.
With the win the team secures a top two seed in the upcoming SEC tournament. In addition to the championship, the squad also earns a double buy in the 14 team tournament. SEC Tournament actions will take place in Orange Beach, Ala. and will begin next week on Friday, Nov. 13.