College kids traveling to Las Vegas often come home empty-handed.
Not the seventh-ranked Lady Vol soccer team.
Tennessee tallied three goals over the final 16:38 to snap a 2-2 deadlock and deny host UNLV's bid for an upset with a 5-2 triumph at Peter Johann Memorial Field Sunday.
Forced to play without senior defender Carie Swibas, who was ejected because of a red card at the 61:37 mark, the Lady Volunteers (3-1) responded with scores by junior Sue Flamini, junior Lyndsey Patterson and senior Rhian Wilkinson to forge a split of its weekend action.
They dropped a 1-0 game before a sellout crowd at Brigham Young Friday night.
"Although it wasn't attractive, we will take the victory," UT coach Angela Kelly said. "It was extremely hot and our girls fell into moments of lapses, but collectively they came together in the second half to find a way to win.
Kelly said her team has to learn to not overlook lesser-regarded teams such as UNLV (3-2), though.
"Each match in a season brings different lessons and today we learned to never be complacent and to constantly raise our level of play, regardless of the opponent."
Freshman Ali Christoph of Columbus, Ohio, provided the Lady Vols with an early lead, notching the first goal of her collegiate career off assists from Wilkinson and fellow freshman Kristen Doukakis.
The helper enabled Wilkinson to tie former teammate Jen Laughridge (1998-2002) at the top of the school's career list with 26 assists.
In the final 20 minutes, with the score tied at two and Swibas out of the game, Tennessee was left with just 10 players for the remainder of the match.
Sue Flamini picked an opportune time to deliver her first regular-season goal since Oct. 28, 2001, when she kicked in the eventual match-winner in the 74th minute. UT sealed the win with Patterson's team-leading three goals, which puts her just one behind her total from all of last season.
Meanwhile, the final goal from Wilkinson moved the Canadian to within three points of Laura Lauter Smith (1997-2000) for the number one spot in career points at Tennessee.
The Lady Vols will return home next weekend to host the First Tennessee Classic, featuring three other teams that reached the 2002 NCAA Women's College Cup. No. 9 Denver will take on Charlotte in Friday's opener at 5:30 p.m., followed by UT's first-ever meeting with Sweet 16 participant Richmond at 8 p.m.
Tennessee will take on Charlotte Sunday at 2 p.m.
Canada's gain is UT's loss
It looks like the Lady Vols will have to do without Wilkinson for awhile.
The senior forward, a native of Baie d'Urfe, Quebec, was named to the 18-player roster of the Canadian Women's World Cup Team Monday.
The team will compete in the upcoming 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup, held Sept. 20-Oct. 12 at six different venues throughout the United States.
Canada's first match will be against Germany Sept. 20, and soccer sports information director John Hines said Wilkinson will miss "a minimum of five games."
The earliest she could return would be the Oct. 3 SEC opener against Mississippi State. The World Cup quarterfinals will begin Oct. 2, though, and depending on how well the Canadiens do, Wilkinson could miss up to four conference games.
The 5-foot-5 sharp-shooter recently brought home a silver medal from the Pan Am Games in Santo Domingo, where the Canadiens dropped the gold-medal match to Brazil, 2-1, in overtime.
She made her Tennessee season debut this past weekend in matches at Brigham Young and UNLV.
"This is a terrific achievement for Rhian and our program," Kelly said. "Considering that her first National Team training camp was five months ago and her first international camp was in April versus the U.S. National Team, she has obviously done very well to make an impression with the Canadian coaching staff.
"We are all proud of her and wish Canada the best of luck."
In receiving first-team All-SEC honors in 2002, Wilkinson led the conference with a school-record 15 assists and netted eight goals for 31 points to place fourth in the SEC scoring race.
She was chosen first-team All-Central Region by Soccer Buzz and as a second-team honoree by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.