Last time out, Vanderbilt fell 1-0 at #13 Ole Miss. It was a return to the beginning of SEC play when the Commodores controlled games, generated chances, and failed to score. A large chunk of the shutout can be attributed to Ole Miss blocking 6 shots, but Vanderbilt also spurned a couple of golden opportunities.
With 6 blocked shots, the disparity in shot attempts (19) to shots on goal (5) by Vanderbilt is a little more understandable. They would have been around 50% on target if not for the desperate defending to prevent shots from getting through to goal. The 58% to 42% possession advantage along with Vanderbilt spending 35% of the match in possession in the attacking half tells the story. Ole Miss scored in the 7th minute then held on for dear life. To go on the road and force your style of play on the #13 team in the country is impressive, even if the result was not positive.
Tonight, Vanderbilt hosts the #10 Tennessee Volunteers. Tennessee is second in the SEC and leads the SEC East. They bring a 13-1-0 (6-1-0) record to West End. The Vols are yet to lose against an SEC East opponent having victories over Missouri (2-1), Florida (2-0), and South Carolina (1-0). Tennessee’s lone loss was a 3-1 defeat at Arkansas. Their nonconference schedule no ranked opponents nor did any of them play in a “Power” conference. South Florida was probably the stiffest test before SEC play started.
The SEC success is impressive enough on its own and has mostly come through defense. Opponents have scored 7 times in 14 matches. All 7 goals have come in SEC play, and Arkansas had 3 of them as the only team to score more than once against UT. Florida and South Carolina were also blanked, so the Volunteers have kept clean sheets in 9 of their 14 matches. Tennessee does allow 9.1 shots per game, but opponents have only managed 3.9 shots on goal per game. Starting goalkeeper Lindsey Romig cleans those up with relative ease judging by her 85.4% success on making saves.
On the attack, Tennessee is average 2.71 goals per game. That average falls a bit to 1.86 goals per SEC match. The Commodores need to make life difficult for Claudia Dipasupil (7G 6A), Taylor Huff (7G 3A), Jaida Thomas (6G 3A), and Mackenzie George (2G 7A). Jordan Fusco also has 3 goals and 5 assists while Brooke Wilson looks like danger off the bench with 4 goals and an assist in 357 minutes and no starts.
Tennessee’s listed starting lineups indicate they deploy in a 4-4-2, so it will be interesting to see how the battle in midfield goes. Vanderbilt has most often used a 4-3-3 this season, which lacks the wide midfield players of a 4-4-2, so Tennessee could find some space there. The Commodores often give their outside backs freedom to press forward into those spaces though, but it will require Abi Brighton and whichever of Madi Allen and Quinn Cornog are on the field to help cover the 2 strikers or Maya Antoine and Ella Shamburger will be left 2v2. Vanderbilt’s advantage will almost certainly be in central midfield where the trio of Brighton, Allen/Cornog, and Kelley will outnumber the two center mids of UT, assuming a typical 4-4-2.
Tonight’s match will be streamed on SEC Network+/ESPN+ with kickoff at 7 PM Central time from the Vanderbilt Soccer/Lacrosse Complex. Tonight is free scarf and dollar hot dog night in conjunction with Senior Night, so #PackThePlex for the Commodores playing in their final home match. This senior class (and the COVID seniors) won Vanderbilt’s first SEC Tournament Championship (2020) and SEC Regular Season Championship (2018) since 1994. They deserve a big last sendoff.