ORANGE BEACH, Ala. — Two second-half scores pushed the second-seeded Kentucky Wildcats into the Southeastern Conference Tournament finals, as they defeated third-seed Tennessee, 2-0, in the semifinals on Friday evening at the Orange Beach Sportsplex.
The win puts Kentucky’s record at 13-6-3, while Tennessee finishes the year at 11-6-3.
The Wildcats took the initial lead in the 54th minute, as midfielder Megan Jones fired a shot from the left side of the penalty box about 15 yards out past Tennessee goalkeeper Sarah Kitchin for what turned out to be the game-winner.
Kentucky iced the game in the 65th minute as Sarah Gaunt punched in a shot after getting the thru ball from SEC All-Freshman Team forward Giuleana Lopez.
For most of the first half, Tennessee had control of the match, out-shooting Kentucky 8-2 in the period. Senior All-American midfielder Ali Christoph got a chance in the fifth, getting a ball 14 yards out after a Sarah Van Sickle throw-in.
Tennessee turned up the offensive pressure around the 26th minute, first by senior midfielder Kristen Doukakis. Her chance from the top of the box was stopped by Kentucky’s second-team All-SEC goalkeeper Anne Ogundele.
Sophomore midfielder Leslie Vineyard took the next try in the 31st minute, shooting from 22 yards out, but Ogundele punched the ball over the goal for the save. Doukakis tried again a minute later, but this time Jones was at the right post to clear away the shot.
In the 33rd minute, Tennessee thought they might have taken a lead, as Kylee Rossi put a ball into the net, but it was waved off due to a handball call on the sophomore.
Tennessee got its final chance of the first half when Rossi, SEC Offensive Player of the Year, missed the ball to the right from 25 yards out.
In the match, Tennessee led in both shot and corner kick categories. Ogundele made six saves in her league-leading 14th shutout of the year.
Tennessee suffered its first defeat in an SEC Tournament semifinal, while Kentucky advances into its first championship match since 1995.
The Lady Vols now will wait to see if they have advanced into the field of 64 in the NCAA Tournament. The selection show will be broadcast on ESPNEWS on Monday at 5:30 p.m.