Vanderbilt gave itself a big boost in their chase for the SEC East crown by drubbing Florida 5-2 in Gainesville. The win means Vanderbilt controls their destiny in the East. Tennessee has one fewer point in the standings than Vanderbilt but has a match in hand, which they are currently playing against South Carolina in Knoxville. That match is on SEC Network. Vanderbilt seems to be finding its way as this season winds down after a couple wakeup calls against Georgia and Arkansas.
Scoring more goals than your opponent attempts shots is a good way to win a game. You may notice that the Gators have one fewer shot on goal than goals scored. Florida was the beneficiary of an own goal when Addie Porter had a corner hit her face and shoulder before glancing off the far post and across the goal line. It was an aerial scrum, and an attacker mistimed a header while screening Porter from seeing the ball. The other Gator goal was also from a corner where Kate Devine was too preoccupied with one attacker and misjudged her punch on the corner which allowed a remarkably unmarked attacker to score on a header.
Vanderbilt controlled play as they should against a team without a win in conference play. They had the ball in the attacking half for over 28 minutes. Even more impressively, 14 minutes of Vanderbilt’s possession were within 30 yards of the Gator goal. Conversely, Florida was on the ball in the attacking half for 18 minutes and within shooting distance for a tick over 8 minutes. Clearly, Vanderbilt was finding a lot more space to take a crack on goal based on the 14-4 advantage in shot attempts. The Dores also stayed disciplined enough not to be caught offside any, which has been an issue at times.
Vanderbilt got scoring from their best players. Raegan Kelley showed her full skill with a pair of goals in only 68 minutes. Fellow attacking midfielder Amber Nguyen had a goal and an assist. Abi Brighton bagged her second of the season. Of course, Peyton Cutshall’s goal got the scoring started, and she played her role nearly to perfection as a target striker.
Part of the offside avoidance was tactical. The Commodores are not playing the ball in behind as much. Passes are going into Cutshall’s feet along with Kelley, Kerr, Nguyen, and the other attacking options. Then those players put their plentiful skill and creativity to use. It has worked to break down the rock solid South Carolina defense and now to rip apart Florida.
Vanderbilt’s opponent this afternoon is Mississippi State. The Bulldogs are 10-3-3 (4-3-1) on the season. Moo State had a similarly weak non-conference slate to Vanderbilt. They allowed only 2 goals and scored 14. Against SEC competition, Mississippi State has scored and conceded 8 times each.
The most threatening attackers are Haley McWhirter and Maggie Wadsworth. Both of them have 3 goals and 1 assist in conference play. Prior to SEC play, Wadsworth had 4 goals and 2 assists while McWhirter had 3 goals and 3 assists. The only other individual with an SEC goal is Gwen Mummert. The other goal was credited to the “TEAM,” so it was probably an own goal by the opposition. Alivia Buxton did have 2 goals and an assist against nonconference foes, but she only has 2 assists since then.
Mississippi State may have an issue in goal as their All-Time leader in Career Shutouts Maddy Anderson has missed exited with injury against South Carolina on October 6th and has not played in the 3 matches since then. Replacement Mac Titus has been okay in her place, but she has faced some staggering offenses in South Carolina, Auburn, and Ole Miss. Alabama managed to get 4 goals by her on 7 attempts, but the Crimson Tide are very good in attack. Vanderbilt should certainly look to test the Sophomore who only has 358 minutes at the college level after not playing at all last season. She has allowed 6 goals from 17 shots on goal but did blank Ole Miss.
As I mentioned earlier, the SEC East is on the line for the Dores, but today’s match will not change that race since only division matches count for the division title. However, if the result in Knoxville holds, South Carolina will jump into a tie with Tennessee one point behind Vanderbilt. All 3 teams will have one division match left. The Commodores and Volunteers go head to head in Knoxville while the Lady Cocks will host a woeful Missouri squad.
The seeding for the SEC Tournament at kickoff today should have Alabama as the #1 having clinched the West and with a perfect 8-0-0 conference record. Vanderbilt will be the #2 as leaders of the SEC East. However, if they cannot capture the East, Vanderbilt will fall down the seeding a bit. The seeding 3 through 10, as it stands, would be Tennessee (19 points), Arkansas (16 with 1 game in hand), South Carolina (16), Georgia (16), Mississippi State (13 and 1 in hand), LSU (12 and 1 in hand), Ole Miss (9 and 1 in hand), and a tie for 10th between Missouri and Texas A&M (8 and 1 in hand). Auburn is just on the outside with 7 points and 1 game in hand.
This afternoon’s Senior Day game will kickoff just after 3 PM CT. SEC Network has the TV broadcast, and there is the ever-available streaming option on WatchESPN/ESPN+. The Plex will also have some extra furry fans as today is Pups at the Plex, but you had to register the pets in advance.