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Soccer Preview and Game Thread: Alabama

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Vanderbilt comes home looking for their first SEC goal in their third conference match.

Syndication: Tallahassee
Ella Shamburger has been quietly dominant even when other defenders have made mistakes.
Joe Rondone/Democrat

Vanderbilt traveled to South Carolina Thursday night for a test against a high-quality opponent. The Gamecocks are likely the best team in the SEC East. Losing 1-0 is a good result on the scoreboard. However, the match itself was frustrating. The Commodores played like a weak team visiting a powerhouse. Any ideas of attacking play were distant after thoughts to the main goal of getting 10 or 11 players between the ball and the goal wherever South Carolina had the ball. It resulted in a game that felt as lopsided as Vanderbilt’s domination of Florida, but the Commodores kept the Gamecocks more to the outside and at distance. Of course, Florida managed not to allow a goal under the Vanderbilt onslaught while South Carolina was able to break through for the winner in the 70th minute.

Vanderbilt (left) had plenty of the ball but did nothing with it.

Even with the ultra-conservative first 70 minutes, it is logical to expect a stronger attacking effort for the last 20 minutes. There might have been some pushback, but it was minimal. The plan was clearly still to hold back then try to spring a counterattack even as that strategy failed miserably time and time again. I can only remember one moment that remotely resembled hope for a goal. Raegan Kelley attempted a through ball along the ground to Abbie Porter who was beaten to the pass by the South Carolina goalkeeper. The 2 (TWO!!) shots have not even stuck in my memory as real chances. Only 1 of them was on target.

Today, the Commodores return to West End for a battle with the 6-5-0 (1-1-0) Alabama Crimson Tide. Hold onto hope that we can say we beat Alabama in football, but the team needs to get back to their identity. They need to play like they did against Florida, though I still think the forward options we have need to be paired with 2 up top even after the Florida match showed how well they can play in a 4-3-3.

Alabama opened SEC play September 16th with a 1-3 loss at Ole Miss, took a one-game break from conference play to host Utah Valley for a 3-0 win, and beat Missouri 2-1 in Tuscaloosa. As you would expect from a team one game over .500, Alabama is outscoring their opposition 20-17, but they have a huge advantage in shots at 178 to 111 and shots on goal 78-47. From that, it seems they have a similar issue to Vanderbilt in that they can control play and find shooting chances but are struggling to finish. The Commodores do a better job of putting their shots taken (144) into shots on target (70), which is 48.3% on target versus the Crimson Tide’s 43.8%.

The main danger will come from Ashlynn Serepca who leads the Tide in goals (5) and assists (3). Kate Henderson is second in goals (4) and tied for second in assists (2). Gessica Skorka also has 2 assists. Nine other Alabama players have been credited with an assist. Felicia Knox, Macy Clem, and Leah Kunde are the other multi-goal scorers with 2 apiece. Five more players have scored a single goal.

In goal, McKinley Crone is the first option. She has started 9 of the 11 matches and played in all 11. She has kept 2 individual clean sheets, which were against UAB and Utah Valley. Brooke Bollinger helped her finish off a 4-0 season opening victory over Jacksonville State. Crone has allowed 12 goals while facing 38 shots on goal, so her save percentage is only 68.4%. Based on her save percentage, she may be a bit of a weak point for the Crimson Tide. The Commodores should certainly look to test her early and often if they get the chance.

This afternoon’s match kicks off at 1 PM CT from the Vanderbilt Soccer/Lacrosse Complex. It will be streamed on SEC Network+/ESPN+. Lineups will be added as they become available.