Senior night was almost a washout for the No. 21 Lady Vols soccer team (10-5-3, 6-3-2) as they struggled to slow down Georgia.
A strong second half gave them a 3-1 victory over Georgia, as Tennessee said goodbye to four seniors.
The win guaranteed a top three seed in this week’s Southeastern Conference Tournament, and marked the 100th victory for coach Angela Kelly.
Georgia freshman Carrie Patterson continued her dominance in conference play, scoring her 12th goal of the season as the Lady Vols struggled to find consistency on defense. Georgia played much of the first half on Tennessee’s side of the field, taking 10 shots on goal compared to Tennessee’s three.
However, the second half was a different story as Tennessee came out with a certain fire in their eyes, netting three second half goals and spending the majority of the half in the Georgia end.
“We challenged them at half-time,” coach Angela Kelly said.
The seniors did come out and play as Ali Christoph tied the game at 57:13 from 30-yards out. Nine minutes later Mick Ingram blasted in a shot from Mia Boyd and Kylee Rossi.
A fitting third goal on Friday’s senior night came from senior Kristen Doukakis at 82:22 off a pass from Emily Redberg. The goal was Doukakis’ first of the season.
“It’s great to have a win. The goal took the pressure off the defense,” Doukakis said. “It was a great effort and a great crossing pass over the top from Emily.”
Kelly was proud of her seniors on a night that honored their four years of work both on and off the playing field.
“It was great to see Ali with a goal, Kristen with a goal – it was a great second-half finish for us,” Kelly said. “It’s a great way to finish off the season.”
Tennessee goalie Sarah Kitchin made a crucial kick save during the 64th minute against Georgia’s Randi-Lynn Bruso that prevented Georgia from regaining the lead. Kitchin finished with eight total saves and helped Tennessee stay in the game during the offensive letdown in the first half.
“We have our first and second goaltenders out with possibly season-ending injuries and Sarah, who hadn’t seen a lot of time has come in and won four games for us,” Kelly said. “She made a great kick save for us – that was a big time save. I’m very pleased with what she’s bringing to the table.
Now Kitchin and the rest of the Lady Vols will prepare for the postseason.
“We’re looking forward to coming to the SEC Tournament and coming out with a win,” Christoph said.
The Vols will be the third seed in the SEC tournament after a Kentucky win on Sunday. Their first round game is against Auburn in Orange Beach , Ala., at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Tennessee will look for a crucial win over Auburn after falling to them 2-1 on Oct. 22. Tennessee takes a group of seniors who have a combined record of 8-1 in the past three SEC tournaments.