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Soccer Preview and Game Thread: Providence

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The Commodores huddle before taking on Western Kentucky.

Vanderbilt topped the Hilltoppers 2-0 last time out. It was a great way to start the home slate for the Commodores. Tonight, the Dores host the Providence Friars at 6 PM CT (1 PM Hawaii Standard Time, if you are wondering) at the Vanderbilt Soccer/Lacrosse Complex with the game streamed on SECN+. I will not be at this match, so the live comments may be a bit limited depending on where or if I am streaming the game.

Vanderbilt (right) gave WKU very little chance to attack.

Plainly, Vanderbilt looked like a team needing to avenge a disappointing loss to WKU last season. The team played with a purpose and did not waver. Possessing the ball in your opponent’s half for 38 of the 90 minutes is a good way to score while not allowing the other team many chances.

Early in the match, Western Kentucky was able to prevent some scoring opportunities with desperation defending to block shots while lunging or sliding. They survived the first half without conceding to the dominant Dores. Alex Kerr did not wait long into the second half to make it 1-0. In the 51st minute, she went give-and-go with Raegan Kelley, who chipped the pass back to Kerr. The finish was a nice half-volley (ball bounced before Kerr kicked it out of the air) that skipped into the far side of the goal just inside the post.

The second goal came just under 4 minutes later. Kerr received a long ball near the top right corner of the box. She cut inside to create some space and lashed a left-footed effort right at WKU’s goalkeeper. The ball rebounded between Kerr and the keeper. The Vanderbilt striker won the race to the ball and slotted beyond the onrushing Hilltopper netminder.

The rest of the match was mostly spent trying to possess Western to death. Coach Ambrose could be heard shouting “Keep the ball! Keep it!” from the sideline. To his credit, this command was not about just passing backward and bleeding the clock. It was, both from my observation and his postgame explanation, instruction to be mindful of not needlessly giving the ball away. Vanderbilt would take 4 more shots, but there was also quite a bit of rotation to get substitutes game minutes while preserving the most important players’ legs for today’s match.

The opposition today are the Friars of Providence. The visitors come to West End with a home 1-0 win versus Colgate followed by a 2-1 loss at Boston University and a home 3-0 loss to #3 Rutgers. The Friars should be a better test than WKU. They did lose their 2nd leading goalscorer (4) and leading assister (5) from last year in Amber Birchwell along with other contributors Hannah McNulty (2G 4A), Esther Rønn (2A), and Jana Braun (1A). The losses are pretty minimal. The Friars return 27 of 33 goals scored last season and 16 of 28 assists. It might mean they struggle a bit creating chances, but the finishers are still seemingly present. When you consider that Providence was 10-7-3 (5-3-2) and made the NCAA Tournament last season, they will be expecting to be an NCAA tournament team again.

This match probably falls between Purdue and the other two opponents in terms of difficulty. Being a home match, it is one Vanderbilt should attack and go win. A 4-0-0 start would be a strong statement with only 3 non-conference matches after today. I will probably be on the beach at match time, so my coverage will be spotty, but I will try to go back and watch it to recap the match before the Commodores host ETSU on Friday, September 2nd.