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Soccer Preview and Game Thread: SEC Tournament Round One

The SEC Tournament kicks off today with Vanderbilt taking on Florida.

Syndication: Tallahassee
Vanderbilt faces the other major team from the state of Florida today.
Joe Rondone/Democrat,

The regular season ended with a 2-1 Commodore victory. It was not pretty, and I was very agitated at halftime. Coach Ambrose elected for a 4-5-1, pulling the wingers from the typical 4-3-3 back into midfield to play a very conservative style. Vanderbilt was predictably pinned in their own half of the field for 61% of the first half. That number includes Vanderbilt’s own possession. Team possession for the first half was split 49-51 in Georgia’s favor, but 61% of Vanderbilt’s own time of possession was in their own defensive half. Vanderbilt failed to attempt a shot while allowing 8. Georgia also scored a goal to take a 1-0 lead into halftime.

Vanderbilt did not completely change their plan in the second half. The adjustment was more in attitude than deployment as the players started to press forward more aggressively from similar starting positions, though the wide midfielders/wingers did appear to stay a little higher.

Vanderbilt (left) needed to take control in the second half to earn a 2-1 victory in Athens.

As you can see, Vanderbilt controlled the game in the second half when you consider the halftime stats. The territorial change led to a trio of corners. Maddie Elwell got a pair of assists from those corners. The first was converted by Alex Kerr after defenders were pulled to a jumping Abi Brighton who did not connect with her head. Kerr then lashed a volley into the Bulldog’s net in the 59th minute. Then with 2 minutes to play, Quinn Cornog (wearing #34 instead of her usual #16 thanks to a “slight uni issue” according to Vanderbilt soccer Twitter account) would pounce on Peyton Cutshall’s blocked header to score her first goal for Vanderbilt.

Unfortunately, due to Alabama beating Auburn creating a 3-way tie for 5th, the tiebreakers fell against the Commodores. Vanderbilt is the 7th seed in the SEC Tournament and missed out on the bye awarded to the first 6 seeds. The first round will see the Dores open the tournament the same way they opened SEC play by playing the Florida Gators. That match ended in a 2OT 0-0 draw. Vanderbilt outshot Florida 19 to 8 and had possession for 58% of the game but could not convert.

Since that match, Florida went 3-6-0 in the SEC to finish with 10 points (3 for each of the 3 wins and 1 for the draw with Vanderbilt) in a tie for 10th. They won the tiebreakers with Texas A&M and Mississippi State to claim the last spot in Orange Beach. Florida scored 13 goals while allowing 15 goals. The problem was 7 of their 13 goals scored came in two games. They scored 3 at Georgia and 4 versus LSU.

Kit Loferski was named as Second Team All-SEC. Conversely, Vanderbilt had 4 players honored to All-SEC teams with Raegan Kelley on the First Team. Maddie Elwell and Maya Antoine join Loferski on the Second Team. Quinn Cornog was an All-Freshman selection. Loferski led the Gators in goals (5) and assists (4) overall. However, in conference play she only scored twice while providing all four assists. Madison Alexander was the most effective Florida player against SEC opposition with all 4 of her goals and lone assist on the season coming against conference foes. Besides Loferski and Alexander, no Gator had multiple goals in SEC play. Only Kouri Peace and Delaney Tauzel had multiple assists. Both of them had 2 helpers.

Alexa Goldberg started all 10 SEC games between the sticks. She allowed 15 goals while making 50 saves. She had 2 solo shutouts and a combined clean sheet with backup Francesca Faraci against LSU.

This afternoon’s game will be televised on the SEC Network and streamed on WatchESPN/ESPN+. Kickoff is set for 1 PM at the Orange Beach Sportsplex in Orange Beach, Alabama. Vanderbilt has won the SEC Tournament in 1993, 1994, and 2020. In 2020, the Commodores were also the 7th seed. The history against Florida is less promising with Vanderbilt’s all-time record at 4-28-2. Darren Ambrose has helmed the Dores to a 2-5-1 record against the Gators. Vanderbilt is also 0-8 in the SEC Tournament against today’s opponent. It is time to write some new history. The Commodores need a good SEC Tournament run to extend their 4-season NCAA Tournament appearance streak.