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Soccer Preview and Game Thread: MTSU

The Commodores go to The Castle for a regional rival.

Syndication: The Tennessean
Vanderbilt WILL play at this newfangled soccer stadium, but it will be in the same sport.
Stephanie Amador / The Tennessean / USA TODAY NETWORK

The nonconference slate is winding down for Vanderbilt soccer. They played their next-to-last such match on Thursday at home against Ball State. It was a lackluster win. Vandy fans know full well not to complain too much about any victory. The Commodores did ultimately pull out the 1-0 win through a 87th minute Mia Castillo header. The ball was floated in beautifully by Addie Porter.

On the front foot but not commanding.

Vanderbilt still had control of the contest. I do not want to mislead anyone. The Dores deserved to win. They just had not executed sufficiently to heavily threaten, much less score. It felt like the midfield was too spread to consistently connect, and the ideas were lacking to break down an opponent who was content to sit back defensively.

When things are not going quite as expected, sometimes the unexpected hero has to arrive at the right time.

Castillo, even before the goal, had her best game as a Commodore. She is generally a very safe player that looks to keep possession even if options to generate an attack. An attacking edge was on display against Ball State. Castillo was rewarded when an aggressive run towards the back post ended with Porter dropping a cross on her head less than 5 yards from goal.

The final nonconference match kicks off tonight at 6PM CT from GEODIS Park, which is the home of Nashville SC. The 30,000-seat stadium is a modern gem. Vanderbilt and Middle Tennessee State will play the first collegiate match at the stadium which was finished in early 2021. Tickets had to be claimed, and all available tickets were claimed. The number available was rumored to be 3,000.

MTSU has had a much better 2023 than 2022. Last season, the Blue Raiders went 2-12-3 (0-8-2) and were outscored 40 to 15 over the course of the season. The only notable contributor to leave was Kirstine Lykke who scored 4 goals. Manon Lebargy tallied 2 goals and 2 assists last season and already has 4 goals thus far. The other notable threats are Emma Pettersen and Kivisto Campbell. Pettersen scored 4 times last season and has netted once in 2023. Campbell had a goal and an assist in 2022 but has already scored once more this season while having the same assist total.

MTSU has already scored 11 times while allowing an equal number of goals by their opposition. The much faster scoring pace with limited goals against suggest the Blue Raiders are greatly improved. The record agrees. MTSU is at 3-3-1 already with wins over Belmont, Howard, and Cleveland State. The draw was with Louisiana-Lafayette. Loyola (MD), Lipscomb, and Chattanooga claimed victory over tonight’s opponent, so Vanderbilt should look to do the same.

The match will be streamed on WatchESPN/SECN+. Vanderbilt also announced fans can FINALLY purchase replica soccer jerseys today and at the bookstore while supplies last.