Freshman forward Kylee Rossi scored her first career golden goal to propel the 17th-ranked Lady Vols to a 2-1 overtime victory over Alabama on Sunday afternoon at the Alabama Soccer Complex. The win, along with the Mississippi-Vanderbilt tie, clinches the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division title for the fourth straight season for Tennessee.
“I have to give Alabama a ton of credit today,” UT coach Angela Kelly said. “They definitely took it to us in the second half, scoring a great goal. But it still comes back to us taking advantage of our scoring opportunities. We had the ball inside the six numerous times, where we decided to blast the shot instead of finish. In soccer, that’s a sophistication that comes with experience.”
The Lady Vols (11-5-1, 9-1 SEC) close out the regular season with a 7 p.m. match at Eastern Division rival Georgia Friday. The SEC regular-season crown will be on the line for UT, as a tie or a win on Friday gives the Lady Vols their third consecutive overall championship.
Tennessee took the only shot in the extra period, as Rossi controlled the serve off defender Jenny Jeffers’ direct kick into the box. The forward then weaved around one Alabama defender before touching the ball past UA goalkeeper Karen Lansden for the golden goal at 93:16. The goal was Rossi’s team-best sixth of the season.
The goal came after Rossi appeared to have a breakaway opportunity in the first minute of overtime, but Alabama’s Natalie Kohn grabbed onto Rossi’s orange jersey, resulting in a yellow card for Kohn, a league-leading 22nd called on the Crimson Tide (7-8-2, 1-7-2). But the foul worked, as Alabama cleared the resulting direct kick.
“In this conference, a win is a win, and we’ll take it and prepare all week for Georgia,” Kelly said.
The Lady Vols had complete control of the first half, as they fired 13 shots with eight coming on goal. Sophomore Emily Redberg opened up the scoring at the seven-minute mark. The 2004 SEC All-Freshman forward took the long feed from Jeffers and touched the ball from 16 yards out past Alabama’s starting goalkeeper Kara Gudmens. Jeffers’ assist was her second on the season and third of her career.
Redberg was the focal point of the offense, as she had eight shots in the match and four on goal in the first half alone. In the 20th minute, her shot from the top of the box just went left. Junior midfielder Kristen Doukakis followed with a strike from 16 yards in the 24th minute that Gudmens snagged.
UT saw shot and rebound opportunities that they could not convert. In the 28th minute, freshman forward Jackie Acevedo fired from the 18-yard line, but Gudmens saved the ball back into play. Midfielder Véronique Maranda got the rebound on the right side, but the Crimson Tide defense blocked the shot. Redberg took another chance from 12 yards out, but Gudmans again got the save. Doukakis corralled the rebound and shot from inside the box, but her ball went left.
Alabama only had four shots in the first half, but all of their shots were close. The best opportunity for the Tide came in the ninth minute, as Jessica Deegan had a shot from eight yards out go high.
The Crimson Tide controlled play for most of the period. Alabama tied up the match at 62:15, as Kylie Boyd took the long lead from Deegan, where she fired from the left across the goal past Lady Vol senior goalkeeper Vanessa Phillips-Bosshart.
Tennessee kept fighting, as a Doukakis header in the 66th minute went just above the crossbar. UT had two more good looks in regulation, as Redberg continued her attacks on the Crimson Tide defense.