Following a tough road loss to Arkansas, the UT soccer team was hoping to steal a win from the No. 7 Florida Gators in the last home game of the season at Regal Stadium.
All six seniors led the team onto the field, and helped the Lady Vols' battle to a stalemate score at half, 0-0, despite the shot count being 8-0 for Florida. The second half brought a abrupt halt to the momentum when 46 seconds in, a penalty kick was given to junior Havana Solaun of Florida to put UT down 1-0. Another goal from Solaun off a corner and a late goal with eight minutes left by freshman Savannah Jordan was more than enough to put away the Lady Vols, 3-0.
UT had many chances in the second half but could not convert through Florida's tough defense.
Coach Brian Pensky attributed the Gators on their all-around play.
"Florida is a very good team, Pensky said. "They're very technical. Offensively, they move the ball very well and move off ballvery well."
The No.7 Gators came into Friday's game 13-3-1 overall, and with just two losses in the conference.
"Funny game, Pensky said. "Shots first half 8-0, score 0-0. Shots second half 8-8, score 3-0. I think the biggest disappointment is that we go into halftime feeling like 'ok, we just knocked out 45 minutes and we're even. Let's go play.'"
However, UT was missing a key part of its offense in junior forward Hannah Wilkinson as she is playing for the New Zealand national team. She is an evident missing piece having logged 1,177 minutes this fall, five goals, five assists, and also leading the team at 25 shots on goal.
This left the attacking pressure up to senior Caroline Brown. She commented on the offensive effort.
"It always takes everyone. I didn't have to feel pressure," Brown said. "Hannah is a great player but our attack comes from everyone so I knew it would take everyone to finish it."
Despite the lack of goals on the stat line, the attack kept the excitement level high in the second half, providing numerous scoring chances and three corner kicks.
The group of seniors represented at Friday's game will now help themselves and their team focus on what's more important - the rest of the season.
"It's not over," said senior forward Katie Lenz. "It's not over 'til the very last whistle blows of our last game. We need to believe and find strength in ourselves because things will start going our way. Things can only go up from here."
"I'm just going fight," Brown said. "That's all it comes down to. It's just that inner will to give everything you have. That's all I'm trying to do every night."
The Lady Vols will refocus, knowing there is more season right around the corner, and it's more important than ever.
"My message to the team after the game," Pensky said. "Number one: thank you to our seniors for all they've done and sorry we couldn't help you end on a more special note. Second thing: this is over and we have to go prepare for Sunday. We gotta get a win."
The Lady Vols' will turn around and hit the road for a game at 2 pm on Sunday against Missouri.