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Soccer Preview and Game Thread: Kentucky

The goal-scoring bonanza goes on the road to Lexington.

Mississippi v Vanderbilt
Daydreaming about the Sneaky Pete...

The goals started a third of the way through the match then never stopped when Vanderbilt drubbed Missouri 5-0 last Friday night. Vanderbilt’s five goals came five different ways with five different scorers. Being so versatile in method of attack and who finished the play was refreshing. Too often this season, if Raegan Kelley has not been scoring then the goals have been hard to come by for Vanderbilt. In fact, Kelley’s 7 goals, including one against Missouri, make up a third of the team’s 21 goals on the season. Missouri, while not top-notch competition, is still good enough that beating them by 5 goals says more about Vanderbilt’s recent form than about how bad Missouri is. It was the second successive dominant win after a 3-0 victory over Alabama the previous Sunday.

Maddie Elwell started the scoring when she was the eventual recipient of an Amber Nguyen cross intended for Alex Kerr that rolled all the way to the far side (right to left) of the Missouri penalty area. Elwell lasered the shot back to the goalkeepers left side netting. Eight minutes later Raegan Kelley would be the recipient of a chipped Kerr pass set up by Abi Brighton’s sliding block of a clearance attempt. Kelley was never going to miss staring the keeper down from 8 yards out. Less than a minute after halftime, Nguyen and Elwell swapped roles on who would provide and who would score for the third goal via a throw-in routine. The fourth Commodore goal was the work of inch-perfect long-distance passing as Amber Nguyen would zip a pass across the field to Elwell who then lobbed an early cross right at the back post for Kerr to redirect enough to beat the goalkeeper. Finally, Tina Bruni would score powerfully from distance when an Ella Shamburger free kick hit the crossbar and was only partially cleared to Bruni about 25 yards from goal.

Vanderbilt (right) contolled the match in every way and got their just rewards on the scoreboard.

The Commodores have another opponent from the bottom of the SEC table. The Kentucky Wildcats are 6-5-2 (0-4-0) on the season. Big Blue Nation’s women’s soccer team (one of two SEC schools with a men’s soccer team) has been very stout defensively. They have struggled to score against quality opponents and in SEC play. The Wildcats have 1 goal, scored in a 1-2 loss versus South Carolina, while having conceded 7 in the 4 conference matchups. Overall, Kentucky has scored 28 times while allowing only 13 goals.

To put the 28 goals scored into perspective, a whopping 19 came in 4 matches against Eastern Kentucky (6-0), Louisiana-Lafayette (5-0), Oakland University (4-1), and Bellarmine (4-0). Nine goals in the other nine matches suggests the attack stats may be inflated by weak opposition.

Individually, Jordyn Rhodes leads the way with 9 goals and 5 assists. She leads in both categories. Hannah Richardson is a close second in goals with 8, but only Marissa Boscoe (3), Miranda Jimenez (2), and Úlfa Úlfarsdoóttir (2) have multiple goals. Helping their teammates score, Jimenez and Sara Makoben-Blessing have 3 assists while Úlfarsdoóttir, Maria Olsen, and Gretchen Mills have 2 to round out the multi-assist players.

In goal, Lauren Nielsen has started every match. She has allowed all 13 goals while playing all but 33 minutes on the season. Her 51 saves give Nielsen a very respectable 0.797 save percentage.

Tonight’s match was scheduled to kickoff at 6:30 PM CT from the Wendell and Vickie Bell Soccer Complex. However, weather has delayed the start. Updates will come from Kentucky’s Women’s Soccer Twitter first, but I will pass them along as they come. The SEC Network+/ESPN+ has the stream for tonight.

I have attended a men’s game at Kentucky, but it was before the current facility opened in 2014. No, I have not made the trip to Lexington for the match tonight.