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Soccer at Tennesse Recap

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The Commodores lose to the Volunteers for the first time since 2015

MLS: U.S. Open Cup-Nashville SC vs Colorado Rapids
Sad smoke signals...
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

To start, I apologize for the delay in getting this recap done. It went squirrely when I was not able to watch the game live. Unfortunately, I also knew the final score long before I started watching and knew the game would be scoreless until overtime then end in a loss. There was a lot of action to get to that sour conclusion though.

Vanderbilt started in the expected 3-5-2 with only two changes from the season opener. Maya Antoine slotted in for Myra Konte with Madiya Harriot swapping sides to accommodate the switch. The midfield was exactly the same. Up top, goalscorer Blue Ellis got the start over Alex Kerr. Tennessee responded tactically with a 5-3-2 where they told the wide players in the back 5 to man-mark Vanderbilt’s wide midfielders Madison Elwell and Leila Azari.

Raegan Kelley got the first good chance of the match in the 7th minute when two Tennessee defenders miscued on a headed clearance. She rushes the shot a bit and send the shot well over the crossbar. The game continues tentatively until Tennessee breaks through with a well-played diagonal through ball. It cuts between two defenders, but Guilmette answers with lightning-quick reactions to get down for the save. The tension of the moment is for naught as the referee blows for an offside that was the right call but very tight.

Moments later, Elwell has a chance to make her mark. She sprints along the left wing and spies a streaking Haley Hopkins headed towards the goal. The ball in to Hopkins does not have enough pace on it though, and the Tennessee defender steps in to clear it away.

In a bad turn of luck that was perfectly Vanderbilt, Abi Brighton heads a long ball from Tennessee’s goalkeeper. It falls to the feet of a Volunteer midfielder, but Brighton steps to close her down. Unfortunately, the referee accidentally gets in her way with a perfect screen. With open space now, Tennessee is able to play a long pass into the box, but Guilmette ends the threat by getting to it first.

Raegan Kelley was handed another golden opportunity when Elwell nutmegs a defender (aka played the ball between the defender’s legs) to get to the endline for a cutback pass just above the penalty spot. Kelley again puts the ball over the crossbar.

Then the fouls start. After a fairly nonphysical start to the match, the latter moments of the 1st half include a cluster of fouls. The game gets to halftime with the shots 5-3 in Vanderibilt’s favor, but shots on goal go to the Volunteers 2-1. The score remains 0-0.

The aggressive tackling continues into the second half and results in a free kick for the Commodores from near midfield. The ball is floated to the backpost where Blue Ellis has somehow become unmarked. Ellis mistimes her play on the ball causing it to skim off her and dribble out for a goal kick.

The Volunteers get a free kick of their about 40 yards from the Commodore goal and dead center on the pitch. Tennessee takes a speculative shot that has good power and bend on it, but Guilmette easily makes the save and holds onto the ball with a nearly effortless dive.

The two teams have settled into very different styles of play. Vanderbilt wants to keep the ball on the ground and possess it with crisp passing. Tennessee simply wants to get the ball as far away from their goal as possible. Oddly, Vanderbilt’s next opportunity comes from a very direct play.

A Commodore throw-in from well in their own half is headed poorly by a Tennessee player. It falls to Olivia Simmons right at midfield. Her initial pass is deflected, but Simmons is the first to it and drives down the center of the field. There is only one defender between her and the goal from 50 yards out, but the defender delays Simmons enough for others to get involved. A very intelligent pass beats all of the recovering Volunteers and puts the ball right into the path of an onrushing Hopkins just inside the box. Her first touch lets her down though and leads her wider than desired, forcing Hopkins to pass instead of shoot. The pass is not defended at all as it slowly rolls across the box. Azari is first to it. Her shot is blocked by a desperately sliding Volunteer. A foul is called is called in the scramble for the resulting corner kick.

A few moments later Hopkins wins the battle with two Vols from a flicked-on header in midfield. She drives into the box and cuts back, looking to play creator. After twisting and turning, she scoops a ball behind the defense to Azari who chests the ball down but whiffs on the shot before being closed down. Nothing else comes from it.

Another Commodore chance comes from poor defending. A deflected pass ends up at the feet of Azari, who pinpoints a ball for Kelley’s head. The headed shot is blocked just off her head by 2 Volunteers as all 3 collide. The bouncing ball just misses the post as it goes out for a corner…except not? The call is a goal kick. Okay.

With only 10 seconds in regulation, a low cross by Hopkins is poorly defended. Azari gets control inside the box and drops it for Brighton, but a late challenge leaves Azari in a heap as Brighton’s shot sails WELL over the goal. That play is probably called a foul and given as a penalty if it happens with more than 2 seconds remaining.

The break between regulation and overtime takes more time than the extra period. Tennessee earns a corner kick. The ball comes in near the penalty spot and is headed towards the center of the goal where another Volunteer, just in front of Guilmette, actually settles the ball for a teammate who slots the ball home from 2 yards out. The defenders switched off for a moment to leave the two Tennessee players alone and paid for it. Guilmette had no chance to do anything to prevent the goal.

In the final stats, Vanderbilt takes 11 shots to Tennessee’s 8. However, the Volunteers kept the advantage in shots on goal at 4 to 3. The fouls, as expected, were high with 13 whistled against Tennessee and 12 against Vanderbilt. The Commodores controlled possession for the 2nd straight game, but not quite as strongly with only 57% of the ball. You can see the rest of the box score and possession breakdown below with Vanderbilt’s statistics on the left side

.The Commodores next match is Saturday at 5 PM in Columbia, Missouri. Why do we keep getting Big XII teams in a season that was supposed to be SEC-only? Is this because we missed the SEC-Big XII Challenge in basketball for a few seasons?