Starting SEC play with a loss is not ideal, but when it comes at the #9 team in the country, the pill is a little less bitter to swallow. Vanderbilt dug an early hole with 3 goals conceded in the first 19 minutes. The first goal allowed came off a cross Alex Wagner headed straight up into the air. She got under the ball to play it as it came down, but the separation allowed an attacker to rush in and score before she got a touch on the dropping ball. Then Maddie Baker was simply beaten in the air by a taller, higher leaping Gamecock. The final goal against was a very poor turnover by Kate Devine.
Down by 3 goals less than a quarter of the way through the contest, the Commodores showed impressive resilience and cohesion. The goals allowed were prime to create in fighting since they all came off individuals being beaten in one-on-one battles, whether that was completely their fault or not. Instead, Vanderbilt got to halftime without any further damage then had the better of the second half. Shot attempts were 6 to 4 in Vanderbilt’s favor in the second half.
Unfortunately, the lone goal for the visitors would not come until the 90th minute when Courtney Jones poked home a goal-mouth scramble after a corner kick. It was Jones’s 4th goal on the season, which leads the team. It means she has scored in both her regular season and SEC debuts.
This game was experienced via a phone screen in a sportsbar in Vegas, so analysis on how the possession advantage was achieved is not available. The impressive territory splits are interesting. Vanderbilt spent a third of the match in possession in the attacking half. South Carolina did the same for about a quarter of the match. Both teams were eager to get forward with the ball, which makes the low number of corners and offside infractions surprising. Not putting shots on target may have kept Vanderbilt from getting back into the game earlier or more emphatically.
Baker returning after only 3 matches was a very welcome surprise. I had assumed her season might be done after the injury against Kansas State. Fitness is probably still an issue, as evidenced by her only playing 24 minutes. It was good to see a fairly attacking approach to the game from a 4-2-3-1 that was not shy. In the past, that formation might have signaled bunkering in against attacks. Instead, it was just a lower starting point for attacks flooding forward. That approach is understandable against a high-caliber opponent.
The Commodores return home for their second conference test tonight. The Ole Miss Rebels are 5-2-1 (1-0-0) after knocking off LSU 1-0 in Oxford last Friday. This will be Ole Miss’s third game in Tennessee and second in Nashville after losing 1-0 at #20 Memphis and 2-1 at Lipscomb. Vanderbilt will look to keep the state 3-0 against the Rebels.
Ole Miss’s most dangerous threat by far is Kelly Brady. She has 6 goals on the season, one of which was the winner against LSU. Behind her, only Gili Johnson has scored multiple goals, with 3 so far. The only player with more than one assist is Aubrey Mister, and she only has a pair. The weirdest stat might be that no Rebel has scored a goal and an assist. Including the names mentioned, there have been 7 goal scorers and 6 assisters with no overlap.
The Oxford residents have relied more on defense than goal scoring. Through 8 contests, they have scored 14 goals while allowing only 6. Starting goalkeeper Shu Ohba has only faced 40 shots, so she has a 0.65 GAA and 0.875 SV%. Based on their schedule, Vanderbilt should be the toughest test except maybe Memphis.
The action kicks off at 6 PM from the Vanderbilt Soccer/Lacrosse Complex. There is a Vanderbilt soccer scarf giveaway, and, as you can see below, it is pretty sweet looking. If you decide you do not want free things for attending a free event, the match will be televised (on real TV!) on SEC Network with an accompanying stream on WatchESPN.
The votes are in ️— Vanderbilt Soccer (@VandySoccer) September 20, 2023
Fans, tomorrow you will have the opportunity to secure a soccer scarf with the design that was voted on by you!
Be sure to arrive early to tomorrow's match and get your special edition, 2023 Vanderbilt Soccer scarf #AnchorDown pic.twitter.com/Ey8f4XTtXu