Two mistakes were all it took to keep the road losing streak doing. Vanderbilt has now lost 4 in a row away from West End. Granted, 3 of the 4 contests have been against ranked opponents. Beating good teams on the road will be necessary if the Commodores can get to the NCAA Tournament though.
In Lexington, there was a late first half foul in the box by Maya Antoine that led to a penalty kick that was converted. Then, just over 3 minutes into the second half, a nifty sequence of passes and runs got an attacker between Alex Wagner and Hannah McLaughlin. Kate Devine could not quite fix the mess as the shot was just far enough away that she could only deflect it, not fully stop it.
Yes, the Commodores had the upper hand statistically, but the game rarely felt like either team was going to score. The Dores did mount some offense late when Caroline Betts rocked the uprights in the 80th minute followed shortly by an Ella Eggleston goal that was ruled out for an offside infraction. Yes, Eggleston was guilty as a post-free kick scramble in the box saw her drift just behind the defenders before the ball bounced her way.
It is definitely hard to score if you only direct 2 of your 8 shots on target. As mentioned pre-game, Kentucky is very good at suppressing shots and especially shots on goal. However, if a team has 8 corner kicks, they should do better. Those opportunities are too important to waste against a defensively sound opponent. Frankly, I cannot remember if the problem was more about delivery or the players in the box.
The limited minutes for Ella Eggleston stand out. She should be starting and playing more based on the threat she presents on the field. Having her and Rachel Deresky on opposite flanks is going to make other teams very careful about pushing fullbacks forward. Tina Bruni is not inspiring nearly the same concern. A somewhat extended runout for Melania Fullerton was encouraging, even if she did nothing to really stand out either way.
Jada Konte going the full 90 at right back was a bit surprising. She did a good job in place of the presumably re-injured Maddie Baker.
Up next, Vanderbilt is celebrating Senior Night a bit early. They still have home matches against Florida and Tennessee. Picking a non-conference opponent does make sense even if I am not sure how they managed to get a Big 8 opponent into the middle of SEC play. Missouri is 5-5-3 (1-4-1) to this point. Of note, the Yankee Tigers have been very competitive with #10 Arkansas and #15 South Carolina. Those were a 1-0 loss and 1-1 tie, both at home, respectively. Against Georgia, who are just outside the Top 25 now, Missouri lost 2-1. That was also in CoMo.
Road matches have been just as troublesome for Missouri as they have been for Vanderbilt. The road record stands at 2-3-1 (1-2-0) and includes a 5-0 drubbing by Nebraska.
Missouri is not particularly free-scoring with a middling 23 goals scored, and they have also allowed 22 goals against. A pair of 3-2 shooouts – one a win at Florida and the other a loss at Auburn – show that Vanderbilt should be able to score goals, but Missouri may fire back. Granted, the Commodores have still only allowed 11 goals against on the season. The Dores have allowed 8 goals since starting SEC play, so the increase in competition has shown the defense is not quite impervious.
Like Florida, Missouri has one attacker who scores the majority of the goals with a less individually dangerous supporting cast. Kylee Simmons has 10 goals and 2 assists on the season. The next highest tally is 2, which is shared by Jenna Bartels and Brianna Buels. No one has more than 2 assists either, but 5 Tigers are tied at that number.
In goal, it will be 2022 All-Freshman team goalkeeper Bella Hollenbach. She did not start the first four matches, but regained the spot between the sticks after freshman Kate Phillips gave up 5 to Nebraska. It was probably an injury to Hollenbach or pre-determined set of starts for Phillips to get her feet wet in college soccer. Hollenbach has allowed 14 goals (1.56 GAA) from 48 shots faced (0.708 SV%). She has only posted 1 shutout, and that clean sheet was against Missouri State. The Commodores should be aggressive in testing Hollenbach and her back line.
Senior night festivities will precede the 7 PM CT kickoff. The first, I believe, 150 fans, so get there early to get your hands on one. You can also get half-priced snacks and non-alcoholic beverages before kickoff. If you choose to be lame and stay home (or live away from Nashville), the stream is on WatchESPN/SECN+.