Vanderbilt suffered its second defeat in a row for the first time this season when they dropped a 2-1 decision at the University of Georgia Friday night. The Commodores dropped to 6-3-3 (1-3-0) on the season. The conference record looks bleak, but they have played the #13 and #19 teams in the country along with the team that received enough votes to be 5th on the outside looking in to the Top 25. They have had bright spots in all 3 losses, too, so they can compete with strong opponents.
Against Georgia, who is the one just outside the Top 25, Vanderbilt hurt themselves early when a poor clearing attempt put the ball on Georgia’s foot undefended at the top of the 18-yard box. The ball was smashed into the net.
Georgia added to the lead just after halftime on a nice diagonal through ball that was run onto and put home. There was not much of an angle to get the ball through, but the Bulldogs found it. The Commodores were unable to answer until too late when Rachel Deresky slammed a shot off the post. The rebound deflected off some bodies before Tina Bruni poked the ball into the net.
Both teams were able to get the ball into the midfield and even across midfield easily. They both fired off plenty of shots. Neither of them put very many on target. Vanderbilt’s 13.3% shots on target is pretty poor. For comparison, the Commodores have put 39.1% of their shots on goal for the entire season. Being at one-third of your own rate of hitting the frame is not a recipe for success.
I was not able to watch this match as closely as most matches, but my feelings matched the stats. Rachel Deresky continues to be the most dynamic Commodore. I think Ella Eggleston should probably be starting in place of Tina Bruni, even with the goal. Having a starter play only 28 minutes makes the decision to start her seem odd.
The Dores need more out of the midfield, too. Amber Nguyen showed her quickness and control a few times to generate shooting opportunities, but she only got one off and missed the target with it. Courtney Jones has shown some freshman inconsistency with the start of SEC play.
The run of tough opposition continues tonight on West End. Texas A&M is 6-4-2 (2-1-1). They have drawn 1-1 hosting Kentucky, won 1-0 at Mississippi State, lost 1-0 hosting #11 Arkansas, and won 4-0 hosting Ole Miss. The Aggiest boast a high-scoring attack that has netted 34 times while they have only allowed 9 goals. It should be noted that the 8-0 win over Grambling State and the 10-0 win over Texas Southern have really inflated their goals per game average from 1.6 to 2.8.
The goal scoring is well spread. Jazmine Wilkinson leads the Aggies with 5 goals while Maile Hayes follows at 4 tallies. Behind them, the quintet of Sammy Smith, Sydney Becerra, MaKhiya McDonald, Kate Colvin, and Taylor Jernigan are all on 3 goals this season. It should be noted that no player has more than 1 goal since SEC play started.
Setting up the goals is slightly more concentrated at the top. Smith and Carissa Boeckmann both have 6 assists. Wilkinson, Becerra, Georgia Leb, and Mia Pante are next in line with 3 helpers each. Smith is the only Aggie with 2 assists in SEC play.
The goalkeeping situation is a bit interesting. Nothing on the website mentions injuries, which does not mean they were not a factor, but Texas A&M has bounced between Kenna Caldwell and Grace McClellan lately. Caldwell had started the first 5 matches before yielding to McClellan for 1 contest then starting twice more. McClellan got the next 3 starts before duties switched back to Caldwell for the most recent match. On the season, Caldwell has a 1.00 GAA and 0.692 SV%. McClellan is at 0.27 and 0.917. Caldwell does have the ultimate tiebreaker of goalie coolness by having scored a 50-ish yard free kick against Tulsa that floated long enough to deceive the opposing keeper.
Whoever is between the sticks for the visitors, Vanderbilt must put more shots on target than against Georgia. There may be some nerves and pressure on the starter’s shoulders. Test her early and often.
Kickoff is at 7 PM from the Vanderbilt Soccer/Lacrosse Complex. I will not be in attendance and may not be able to watch at all. Luckily, you can watch it with your own eyeballs from home thanks to SEC Network+. It is Pink Out The Plex night, so you can get a pink rally towel if you go to the game. Reminder, cancer sucks.