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Soccer Preview and Game Thread: Florida

The difference in performance on the road versus at home is a real problem since the SEC Tournament is not in Nashville.

Back in the zone at home for the last 2 regular season contests.

The road woes continued for Vanderbilt in Starkville on Thursday night. The Commodores are 0-4-2 after the scoreless draw at Mississippi State. I was unable to watch the match, so I only have the stats and parlagi’s commentary in the comments section. The two do agree on how the game unfolded, thankfully.

Getting bogged down in the midfield seems like a serious issue.

The home side had a little more of the ball, and they also did a better job of possessing within 30 yards of the Commodore goal than Vanderbilt could do getting on their own front foot. The territory map indicates that Vanderbilt was very comfortable getting the ball into the midfield but could not effectively and consistently press forward into dangerous scoring areas.

A combined and evenly split 6 shots on goal in an entire match sounds a lot like watching paint dry. If there is a positive slant, It would be that Vanderbilt got as many shots on target as Mississippi State did while taking two-thirds as many total shots.

Someone needed to provide a little spark. Just could not get it going at the right times.

Rachel Deresky, Addie Porter, and Ella Eggleston being held without any shots attempted is not a recipe for success for the Dores. That trio is cumulatively averaging 5.4 shots per game with 2.6 shots on goal per match. Keeping them from even attempting a shot is a great way to neuter Vanderbilt’s attack.

Amber Nguyen putting both of her shots on target is nice to see, as is freshman Sydney Watts going 1/1 for SOG. I wish I had more to add about why the game unfolded this way instead of just saying what did happen.

Today, the Commodores return to the friendlier confines of the Vanderbilt Soccer/Lacrosse Complex. Vanderbilt is a perfect 3-0-0 at home in SEC play after finishing the nonconference portion of the schedule at 5-0-2 at home. Those 3 wins are the entirety of the SEC successes, unless you want to count the scoreless game at Mississippi State as a “success,” which I do not.

Florida has been on a program downswing in recent seasons. The 2023 Gators are 6-5-4 (2-4-2). They are at serious risk of missing the SEC Tournament, which only uses 10 of the 14 members. Florida sits in a 3-way tie for 11th. That trio is a point behind Tennessee for the 10th and final spot.

Like Mississippi State, Florida is a team that likes the game to slow down and muck up a bit. They average 1.4 goals from 4.8 SOG on 10.4 shots attempted while allowing opponents to score 0.8 goals per match with 6.5 shot attempts and 2.5 SOG. Hopefully, Vanderbilt will do a better job of breaking them down and forcing the game to open up to the desired pace and spacing.

The most dangerous Gator is Megan Hinnenkamp. She has 6 goals and has scored 3 of them during SEC play. Lena Bailey scored 3 times during nonconference games, but she only has 1 goal against SEC opposition. No one except Hinnenkamp has multiple goal contributions (goals and assists) against conference foes. Lauren McCloskey did have a pair of assists early on then added another 1 recently.

In goal, Alexa Goldberg has maybe not always done her part to keep Florida in games. She has started all 15 matches and as a 0.83 GAA and 0.667 SV%. It is hard to know how often her defense is hanging her out to dry, but their statistics indicate good shot suppression, but it only takes a few lapses to really throw off the goalkeeper’s numbers. The stats do balloon to 1.25 GAA and 0.643 SV% in SEC play. Vanderbilt should look to test her early and whenever they get a sight of goal until she proves she can handle those attempts easily.

Regrettably, I may have led you all astray. It appears that the SEC has completely done away with division standings for the SEC Tournament. They failed to update the site fully though, leading to some of the bizaree standings listings. The tournament bracket page, while showing last year’s bracket, does also say that the seedings will be 1-10 regardless of division. A recent update to the site which lists standings that way is intriguing.

As it stands, the standings are Arkansas (19), South Carolina (16), Georgia (14), Mississippi State (14), Alabama (13), Texas A&M (11), Kentucky (10), LSU (10), Vanderbilt (10), Tennessee (9), Auburn (8), Florida (8), Ole Miss (8), and Missouri (4). With 2 matches left, Vanderbilt has a chance to add points against teams below them with Tennessee as the final match after Florida. The Dores are currently 9th but realistically jump to the 4th or 5th range. Ideally, they would get to at least 6th to avoid playing in the first round of the tournament.

This afternoon’s match kicks off at 1 PM. There is some sort of food giveaway. The match is being streamed on SECN+ (free if SECN is in your cable, satellite, and/or streaming package). Or come out and support the Dores in person with just 2 opportunities left to do so.