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Ambrose and Team Embrace Challenge to Prove They Are No Fluke

Vanderbilt Soccer Looks to Complete Conference Play Undefeated

SEC Basketball Tournament - First Round Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The SEC Regular Season Champions, Vanderbilt Commodores, will play at Ole Miss today at 6:00 PM to complete their regular season, and hopefully finish conference play undefeated.

The Commodore soccer squad is 15-1-1 in the regular season and 8-0-1 in conference play. Their only tie coming in a 0-0 match against South Carolina. This is the best season the ‘Dores have had since 1994, the last time they won the conference.

They have not lost a game since they played in Tallahassee against FSU in their second game of the season. Incidentally, FSU is ranked #9 in the country while Vanderbilt is #7.

Often, streaks of this magnitude can become as much a burden as a badge of honor. This team handled it like it wasn’t even there. Head Coach Darren Ambrose says, ““We never discussed it. We always told them to focus on each day’s practice and what were we trying to accomplish in that practice or what we needed to do in each game to be successful.”

And successful they were. Rather than ignore each win, they celebrated and refocused. “After we set a new mark,” says Ambrose “we joked about allowing them until 7.30 AM Tuesday [games were held Thursday, Friday, or Sunday] to celebrate and at that point it was time to get back to work.”

Vanderbilt is led by Haley Hopkins with 12 goals on the season. She is second in the conference behind Cece Kizer of Ole Miss. Kaylann Boyd is second in scoring for the team and tied for 5th in the SEC.

Lauren Demarchi, the Commodore goalkeeper, leads the conference with the fewest goals scored per minutes played, only giving up only four goals in 1081:11 minutes. She has 39 saves on the season.

Ambrose says the team has grown tactically game to game. That is something he said they would have to do when we spoke at the beginning of the year. And like his assessment at the beginning of the year, the team’s competitive attitude has been the fuel for their success, “a lot of the success they have seen has been based on a very competitive mindset and how hard they have worked in training.”

Their stellar regular season has resulted in a #1 seed in the SEC Tournament. This brings a new set of challenges. To play through the end, there are three games in six days, so fatigue can be an issue. Another is being at the top. Ambrose says, “We will get everyone’s best shot. People pay more attention to you when you are in the position we are in.”

Yet, Ambrose and his team do not shy away. They embrace the challenge, something that champions tend to do, “I love that for our kids though. They want the challenge and to prove to everyone that they are no fluke.”