clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Soccer Preview and Game Thread: UMass

The Commodores stay at home after beating Chattanooga 3-1 on Thursday.

Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel
Antoine had a new pair beside her in the back 3, and they stifled every Chattanooga attack.
Jamar Coach/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

Vanderbilt started their season with a comfortable 3-1 win over Chattanooga where the only blemish was a long-distance goal that caught backup goalkeeper Sara Wojdelko off guard. Other than that one moment, it was almost all Commodores.

This is what it should look like when Vanderbilt plays a SoCon school.

Vanderbilt had a very nice 69% of the possession with 46% of the entire match played at Chattanooga’s end of the field with Vanderbilt on the ball. Just over a quarter of the game (26%) involved the Commodores within striking distance (30 yards) of the goal. The possession turned into shots, too, as the Commodores led both shot attempts (19 to 6) and shots on goal (10 to 3).

Even better, most of the trouble with transition moments were settled. Granted, they did not have to transition from attack to defense often, but the defense to attack changes eliminated some of the sticking points identified in the Memphis exhibition. The back 3 stayed together until possession was fully secured then one of the CBs either side of Antoine would leak slightly upfield. This was aided by fully transitioning Hannah McLaughlin to RCB with Alex Wagner at LCB.

The Commodores got to get their bench a lot of minutes to do some early season mixing and matching. Most of it worked.

I think they messed up Maya Antoine’s minutes here. She certainly played more than 37 minutes. Other than that, the notable one is Caroline Betts. Coach Ambrose was vocally instructing her in the first half then subbed her out. She got to start the second half, but she must not have adjusted her play enough to get too much run there, either.

Coach Ambrose’s post-game comments discussed players who are stepping up and those who might not quite be fitting into what the coaches want to happen. For everyone involved, the best possible outcome involves Betts melding into the game plan and playing as much as she can. There is no doubt that Caroline Betts is one of the most talented and dangerous players Vanderbilt has, and I fully expect this to just be an early season test and adjustment.

The good news is that Courtney Jones crashed onto the scene and even, legally, into the goalkeeper once. She scored and assisted in the first half then was very influential in the second half. Both goals created came off balls into the box. Her goal came when an Addie Porter cross was knocked down around the PK spot, and she pounced to be first on it by firing it into the net. The assist was a similar situation with the goalkeeper coming to smother, but Jones acted first by sliding in to poke the ball off the keeper. Maddie Baker, rushing in from a RM position, knocked the found gift home.

The third Commodore goal was scored by another player in her official debut. Rachel Deresky would slide a pass between the Chattanooga CBs for Ella Eggleston to control, including a little wiggle and spin as the defender grabbed her, the slide into the net.

Goals were scored by two freshmen and a sophomore. Primary assists were provided by a freshman and two juniors. That type of production from the young players with some support form the upper classmen could become a trend.

The other thing to note from Coach Ambrose’s post-game comments was that there are some unavailable Commodores that may be back soon. The only player who did not appear against Chattanooga that was a bit surprising was Ava Hetzel, so it may be some freshmen.

Today’s opponent are the UMass Minutemen. Minutewomen? Whatever. UMass probably needed some Adam Butler hugs after going 5-9-5 (4-4-2) last season. Their only non-conference win came against Albany. And included losses to Fairfield, Pitt (a 6-1 drubbing), Boston University, and Harvard (4-1).

This season does not look much more promising after losing their top goal scorer Lauren Bonavita. She scored 10 of UMass’s 20 goals last season. The next highest scorer was Grace Pinkus with 3 tallies. They return 10 of 16 assists from last season, but only having 16 assists in 19 games is not highly encouraging, especially with the main target gone. No returner had more than 2 assists on the season.

The midfield and back end provide some stability though. Midfielders Ella Curry (2G), Bella Recinos (2A), and Lauren Smida (1A) all played more than 1000 minutes in 2022. Defensively, two rocks are back with both Juliana Ryan (1G) and Fiona Kane back after playing more than 1400 minutes each. Unfortunately, no one else at either spot played more than 500 minutes. Depth will probably come into play today as temperatures get into the 90s.

Today’s kickoff is at 1 PM CT with streaming on SECN+ for those that do not want to brave the heat. Vanderbilt is having a free lemonade giveaway for a certain number of fans while, as for all Sunday matches, popcorn refills will be free. I will have the lineups when they release and provide some in-game commentary.