Vanderbilt put up a 4 spot for the second (of two) SEC Tournament games. The Commodores did surrender 2 goals to the Volunteers, but the second goal was after the game was all but over. Vanderbilt jumped on top of their cross-state rivals with goals in the 8th and 18th minute. The first goal came after a borderline red card offense by a Tennessee defender was given as only yellow, and I had no real qualms with the decision. Moments later, a Leila Azari cross intended for Haley Hopkins, who was the Commodore fouled while trying to break through on goal, went over the prolific striker thanks to an aerial challenge. Madison Elwell was first to the ball by cutting across her defender. She stared down the keeper from 10 yards out and slotted the ball away expertly. Azari turned from playmaker to scorer when a short corner routine goes through Myra Konte at the top of the box with the defender unleashing a shot that is knocked down in the box. Azari pokes the ball into the net to double the Commodore advantage. Four minutes later, the Volunteers found some life when Vanderbilt fails to clear a goal box scramble, and Mackenzie George capitalizes.
The score would stay 2-1 in favor of the Commodores until 12 minutes after halftime. It should be noted that Sarah Fuller made an incredible 1v1 save to preserve the lead late in the first half. Elwell also had a glorious chance to extend the lead, but she was too slow to the shot and allowed a defender to get a foot in to deflect the shot just off Elwell’s foot.
Olivia Simmons uncorked one of her patented long throw ins towards Madi Allen. Allen was run through by a Volunteer defender and was rightly awarded a penalty. Kimya Raietparvar stepped up for Vanderbilt and converted. It was her first goal of her Commodore career, but she looked like she had prepared herself for this moment. The 3-goal lead became a 4-goal lead when goalkeeper Sarah Fuller launched a free kick from the midfield circle in her own half. The ball was beautiful, and Raegan Kelley spun off her defender deftly then put the ball beyond Tennessee’s goalkeeper Lindsey Romig after the first bounce. Romig had started to come out to claim the ball, but she was too late. Tennessee would get a last gasp bit of hope when George tallies for the second time in the match in the 85th minute. It proved to be too little, too late. The 4-2 Vanderbilt lead would be preserved to the final whistle.
Tonight, Vanderbilt faces the Texas A&M Aggies who are 8-1 on the season, including their 1-0 win over LSU in the quarterfinals, with their lone loss being to Arkansas. A&M scored multiple goals in every contest except the 2-1 loss to the Razorbacks and the quarterfinals match with LSU. They had 4 regular season shutouts and only allowed multiple goals in their loss. This match will be a real test of Vanderbilt’s recent scoring punch.
Kickoff will be coming up in a few minutes on the SEC Network. A win tonight would put Vanderbilt into the SEC Tournament finals against Arkansas who defeated South Carolina in the first semifinal.