Soccer is a weird sport sometimes. It is a bit like baseball in that individual results can vary wildly from the statistical norms. You can have one team dominate the other and barely eek out a win or even lose. Games like Vanderbilt played last Sunday against Pepperdine also happen.
Pepperdine certainly had the upper hand. The Waves led in shots 16 to 9 and shots on goal 10 to 6. The possession stats are fairly even. The box score really does not look like one where one team won 4-1. The first three visitor goals were created by individual errors. Maya Antoine was guilty on the first two. On the first, she misread then misplayed a diagonal ball (pass in the air from Pepperdine’s attacking right wing to the center of the Commodore penalty box) that left Joelle Anderson alone with Kate Devine. The second goal was her getting put on skates in a one-on-one situation that was barely turned into a corner by Devine. Pepperdine would score from the corner when Antoine was late to react to a Kelsey Hill’s run and allowed a free header. Coach Ambrose apparently agreed with my assessment of the normally solid Antoine by benching her for the second half.
Zonal marking, which I despise as a goalkeeper, left Sophia Gorski chasing a corner flighted well beyond the back post. As a result, Tori Waldeck was left wide open to redirect the initial header right in front of Devine. Zonal marking in soccer works the same as a basketball zone defense. And just like a lethal 3-point shooter can pull guys out of position, the deep corner pulled Gorski off Waldeck in a very dangerous position. Zonal marking on corners is way too prevalent in my opinion, but what do I know?
The fourth goal was simply a poor giveaway on a throw in from Tina Bruni. She put Brighton, who did not have her best game either, in a tough spot with a ball bounced into her while already under pressure. Carlee Giammona poked the ball to Waldeck who hit a gorgeous shot from about 23 yards out that left Devine diving and grasping at air. Vanderbilt would eventually score when Alex Wagner drew a penalty that Ella Shamburger would convert for her first goal in gold.
Losing to the now-#13 team in the country is nothing to be ashamed of, but the Commodores need to find more positive results. When one thing clicks, other aspects sputter. They face a battle for Nashville tonight at 6 PM when they head 4 miles south to Lipscomb. The game will apparently be streamed on Lipscomb’s YouTube account. I have other plans for the evening, so I will not be attending. The amount of attention I pay to the match may be negligible.
The Commodores better be completely locked in for the match though. Lipscomb has been very good. They may not be ranked, but the Bisons are likely knocking on the door. At 5-1 on the season, the Bisons have allowed only 2 goals. Mississippi State was beaten 2-1 while Pepperdine won 0-1 (OT) 3 days before their win over Vanderbilt. Along with Pepperdine, Lipscomb also beat the Southern Illinois Salukis 4-0, having inverted the Pepperdine and SIU game dates from Vanderbilt.
The Bisons attack has been adequate considering the nigh impossibility of scoring against them. They have scored 11 times in the 6 matches (1.83 G/GP) from 103 shots (17.2 S/GP) and 41 SOG (6.8 SOG/GP). One stat that stands out to me is that Lipscomb is so strong defensively but have only been given 4 yellow cards. Defending cleanly will limit set piece opportunities.
Vanderbilt must take advantage of what opportunities they can muster. The Commodores have struggled to do so thus far in 2021. The shuffling of personnel and formations may be settling though. If they can find consistency, the talent is there to find a rhythm. The SEC slate begins next week when the Florida Gators come to West End. A second Nashville derby is the last nonconference match when MTSU visits on Sunday. The urgency should be high for the reigning SEC Tournament champions.