The 13th-ranked Lady Vols will play in their fourth straight SEC Soccer Tournament final after advancing on penalty kicks over 20th-ranked Vanderbilt, 4-3, in Friday’s semifinals in Orange Beach, Ala.
The match officially goes down as a scoreless tie, moving Tennessee’s record to 13-5-2 and the Commodores to 15-3-2. Vanderbilt handed the Lady Vols their only loss of the regular season Oct. 14 in Nashville.
“I just told the team to be confident and explain that it was about passing the ball 12 yards,” Tennessee coach Angela Kelly said about the shootout. “I tried to take the weight off and tell them that, whether they made the kick or won the game, that doesn’t diminish how much I care and how proud I am of how they decided to play.”
With the win, Tennessee advanced to play Auburn in Sunday’s championship game, which was still underway at publication.
In the shootout, the squads swapped goals to start, as VU’s Amy Baumann and UT’s Emily Redberg both found the nets. Vandy’s Susan McAleavey gave the Commodores the 2-1 advantage after beating UT senior goalkeeper Vanessa Phillips-Bosshart to her right.
First team All-SEC forward Genna Gorman went second for the Lady Vols, but her shot was stopped by SEC Defensive Player of the Year Tyler Griffin.
Holding the 2-1 advantage, Vanderbilt coach Ronnie Hill sent first-team All-SEC defender Kim Perkins to the PK spot. The junior missed right, giving Tennessee new hope. Junior midfielder Kristen Doukakis tied it up at 2-2 when she beat Griffin to her right.
Katie Schulz then came up for Vanderbilt, but her shot hit the crossbar and left post and bounced across the goal mouth but never over the line. First team All-SEC midfielder Ali Christoph took the fourth chance for UT and sent it into the nets, giving the Lady Vols the 3-2 lead.
With one shooter remaining for both squads, the Commodores’ Monica Buff beat Phillips-Bosshart to her left to knot it up at 3-3. Second team All-SEC forward Kylee Rossi went last for the Lady Vols and beat Griffin to her left to send Tennessee to its fourth straight championship match.
Vanderbilt controlled the first half of play, getting a few offensive chances that the Lady Vol defense was able to turn away.
In the 15th minute, Lea Lafield got behind the UT backline and went towards goal. She tried to cross the ball towards the left, but no one was there to finish for the Commodores.
The Lady Vols tried to get on the board in the 30th minute, as Rossi fired from the left side, but the ball stayed left. Vanderbilt then had two free kicks from the right side of the penalty box that the Commodores served in for chances, but sophomore Erica Griffin and junior Jenny Jeffers cleared the balls out of the box.