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Soccer Preview and Game Thread: Kentucky

The Commodores get another chance at home for their first SEC win of the season.

Vanderbilt needs to keep the focus internal because they have the talent and tactics to be very successful in SEC play.

Match one of the SEC slate did not go the way Vanderbilt would have liked. The Commodores fell 1-2 to LSU. The Bayou Bengals jumped out to an early lead on the road thanks to a 13th minute header. A corner was flicked beyond the back post then lobbed back across goal. Whoever was marking Lindsi Jennings lost track of her for an open header that beat Kate Devine with no fault belonging to the goalkeeper. The home team would equalize via a stunner from Peyton Cutshall in the 39th minute that I will not try to describe. Just enjoy.

Ida Hermansdottir put up LSU’s second goal on a free kick from just inside 25 yards out. Devine might have cheated a bit to her left, but it was a well-struck ball that the goalkeeper touched with her fingertips but could not stop from entering the net. Devine came up limping and would have to be replaced a few minutes later by Sara Wojdelko, and no update on Devine’s availability has been given.

Vanderbilt (right) needed to create better chances to get a result in this contest.

It was a relatively even match. The officiating was questionable enough to be pointed out by the commentary team for a couple potential PKs for the Dores. Watching on my phone during my lovely time at Walmart waiting on a flat tire repair, it was not clear that any of the calls were excessively terrible but having three could-be PKs all denied seems unfortunate. Vanderbilt should not spend, and if I know anything about Coach Ambrose’s coaching style has not spent, any time on the officiating. The attack was fizzling in the final third due to a bit too much insistence on passes over the top with way too many times caught offside.

If Vanderbilt could have timed their runs better, more scoring chances were there to be had. A few completed through balls also would have forced LSU to rethink their strategy to play such a high line and rely on the offside trap. The visitors’ plan worked, and they left West End with a win after scoring goals two and three against Vanderbilt all season.

There was not much of a territorial advantage. Vanderbilt had the ball on attack for 24 minutes while LSU possessed the ball in Vanderbilt’s defensive half for 19 minutes. The winning team took advantage of their 9 shots by putting 5 on target. Vanderbilt only forced LSU interventions to prevent a goal on 2 of their 11 attempts.

Both teams having to use their backup keepers due to injury was an oddity.

Maya Antoine, Raegan Kelley, Ella Shamburger, and Alex Wagner went the distance. Abi Brighton and Hannah McLaughlin played 81 and 80 minutes, respectively. An injury concern put Carolina Betts out after only 9:56, and she only reappeared for a quick 4:21 spell midway through the second half. Seven more outfield players went 40+ minutes, so it appears Coach Ambrose has a firm grasp on how he wants to rotate the squad to keep players competing at a high level for the full 90 minutes.

McLaughlin and Brighton having five of the eleven shots taken explains the low accuracy numbers. Brighton in particular has a fantastic shot and nearly connected on a wicked half-volley, but holding midfielders should not be leading in that category. Cutshall had three to tie Brighton for most in the game, and she had both SOGs. Kelley, Deresky, and Baker each had a single go at goal. Shutting down Deresky and Kelley is going to be key for teams that want to slow the Commodore attack. I am sure they will adapt going forward to prevent whatever LSU did from being a blueprint. Raegan Kelley especially has enough experience at this level to find ways to influence a game no matter what the opposition tries to slow her.

Tonight’s opposition are the Kentucky Wildcats who have made the trip from Lexington to Nashville. The Cats are 7-2-0 (0-1-0). The two losses were at WKU 1-0 and versus Ole Miss 1-2. Another notable result is a 2-1-win home win over Purdue since Vanderbilt won their match at the same opposition 1-0. One match I am not sure how to rate is a 4-0 home win over Iowa State, who is a major conference foe but is only 3-3-2 on the season with no impressive wins.

Kentucky has scored twenty-seven goals on the season while allowing seven. As such, they are averaging 3.0 goals for and 0.8 against. The Commodores are scoring 2.8 goals while conceding a miniscule 0.4 goals per match. The goals are coming from quite a few different players, too. Jordyn Rhodes is the leading scorer with five goals followed by Úlfa Úlfarsdoóttir with four along with Hannah Richardson and Emilie Rhode both on three markers for the season. Richardson is a playmaking machine, too, with eight assists while Úlfarsdoóttir has setup a teammate four times herself. Four Cats each have scored twice or once. Three have two assists and four have a single helper.

In goal, redshirt freshman Tallulah Miller has started all nine matches for UK and has allowed all seven goals with her understudy Steph Stull only playing thirteen minutes. It is hard to go by save percentage, and I have not seen Miller play yet. She has only made seventeen saves while allowing the seven goals, so her save percentage is 70.8%.

Coverage tonight will be provided on SECN+/ESPN+ (if you have ESPN+ OR SEC Network in your cable/satellite/streaming service, you can watch this match) with kickoff at 7 PM CT. I will be at the Vanderbilt Lacrosse/Soccer Complex to cover it live. An unspecified number of fans will receive shirts recognizing fifty years of Title IX. Concessions will also have $2 sodas and select beers (12 oz) with bottomless popcorn to keep you thirsty. I doubt any of you are headed to Tuscaloosa this weekend, so this is your chance to support the Dores in person since Sunday’s soccer match is also on the road as part of an unpublicized SEC-Big 8 crossover.