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Soccer Preview and Game Thread: Arkansas

The best team in the SEC West, and possibly whole SEC, comes to West End this afternoon.

Syndication: Tallahassee
You can probably expect Cutshall to put in some strong challenges today.
Joe Rondone/Democrat

The goalsplosion continued Thursday in Lexington. Vanderbilt won 4-1 over the Kentucky Wildcats in a game that was shortened 15 minutes due to lightning and impending weather. Three different Commodores found the back of the net with Alex Kerr tallying twice while Raegan Kelley and Maddie Elwell scored once each.

Kelley was first on the scoresheet when she ripped a shot off the crossbar and across the goal line with Peyton Cutshall credited for the backheel assist, though a defender may have actually had the last touch before the shot. Kerr gets credit for the second goal, but she merely needed to exist in the box because Amber Nguyen dropped a cross literally on her foot. Elwell would get on the board next after Kelley picked up a whiffed clearance, made a long dribbling run into the box, then slid the ball through for Elwell to laser it passed the keeper at the near post. The goalkeeper will not like giving up the goal, but it counts.

The game went to halftime 3-0. Vanderbilt had 3 shot attempts in the half. They were making Kentucky pay when a Commodore got a clear sight of goal. The Wildcats had 5 shots with 2 being on frame. Devine had to make a diving parry on one. The possession was listed as 61-39 in Vanderbilt’s favor.

After the break, Alex Kerr waited 7 minutes to make sure everyone was back in their seats from the bathroom or concession stand. Then, she took on her defender, crossed her up, and left the goalkeeper diving at air. Enjoy.

Kentucky did break Vanderbilt’s shutout streak at 271 minutes and 30 seconds. The Commodores conceded at 69:52 against South Carolina, held both Alabama and Missouri scoreless, and allowed the goal to Maria Olsen at 71:22. The game would end 4 minutes later, seemingly to the consternation of Kentucky’s head coach Ian Carry.

Vanderbilt (left) had half the shots but created the more dangerous chances and converted them.

Back home, the Commodores face a team that will not only challenge their ability to continue a 3-match streak scoring 3+ goals but will make Vanderbilt be at its best to have any chance of extending the winning streak of the same length. The Arkansas Razorbacks are 10-2-0 (5-0-0). They are ranked #8 by TopDrawerSoccer and #7 by the United Soccer Coaches polls.

Today’s visitors have outscored opponents 38-9, outshot them 248-118, and have a shots on goal advantage of 124-50. Every one of those numbers points to how dominant Arkansas has been all season. The two losses came at #6 Duke (3-1) and at #3 North Carolina (1-0). They have wins over #24 BYU (1-0 OT) and #13 Tennessee (3-1). The Razorbacks have kept 5 clean sheets; however, only 1 clean sheet was in SEC play. They have still only allowed 1 goal in each of the other 4 conference matches. Arkansas’s attack has struck 4 times versus Ole Miss and at Texas A&M and 3 times versus Alabama and versus Tennessee.

The leaders of the potent attack are Anna Podijil (8G 5A), Parker Goins (6G 7A), and Taylor Malham (7G 4A). Unfortunately, the danger does not end with that three-headed monster. Ava Tankersley also has 4 goals and 4 assists while Kayla McKeon and Sophia Aragon join with 4 assist club with 2 and 1 goals, respectively. Van Fitch has potted a trio of goals. Jessica De Fillipo rounds out the multi-goal scorers with 2 herself while 5 previously unmentioned Razorbacks have a single goal on the season. Brooke Roberts has 3 assists along with Ava Benedetti has a pair of helpers. Four Razorbacks has a lone assist. In all, 12 of the visitors come to West End having appeared on the scoresheet more than once with another four having only been credited once.

The player getting to watch all of the offensive fireworks from the best viewpoint is goalkeeper Hannah Warner. She has played all but 33:38 when Payton Woodward made a relief appearance in a 6-0 win over Lamar. Warner has made 40 saves while allowing the 9 goals. With such a dominant team in front of her, it is hard to know how representative the 0.816 save percentage is, but I suspect she is as good at her position as most of her teammates are at theirs. Vanderbilt’s clinical finishing will need to continue to score at all, much less multiple goals.

This afternoon’s match kicks off at 2PM CT at the Vanderbilt Soccer/Lacrosse Complex. It is Fan Appreciation Day and Pups at the Plex. As such, each fan gets a free cookie from Tiff’s Treats while Commodore fans can bring along their favorite furry companion with these simple regulations. The game will be televised on the SEC Network and streamed on WatchESPN/ESPN+/Whatever other names apply. Reminder, only divisional matches matter when it comes to naming the division winners who become the #1 and #2 seeds in the SEC Tournament. All conference results matter for seeding beyond that point though. Vanderbilt needs a signature win, and Arkansas represents the best in the SEC right now.

On a note of personal revenge, Peyton Cutshall injured her ACL against Arkansas two years ago. She was quoted by the Hustler as saying, “Last time, they took my ACL, so now, I want something back.” If you needed any other reason to watch, revenge tours can be a lot of fun. Here’s hoping she can get on the end of a cross or corner with her head. Or maybe she can create some more beautiful opportunities for others.