For many, Fridays are simply the start of the weekend, a time to finally let loose or the day made for students to catch up on sleep. For the Lady Vols soccer team, Friday marked an opportunity to begin their quest for an SEC Championship.
Coming off a disappointing weekend, the Lady Vols looked to bounce back by beginning their SEC slate against No. 20 Texas A&M Aggies at Regal Stadium. Both teams entered Friday night with a 5-2-1 record and were looking to get off on the right foot in conference play.
UT held on through the end of the game, defeating the Aggies 1-0, making it the third year in a row that the Lady Vols have defeated the Aggies.
"We knew Texas A&M is a fast, fit team," head coach Brian Pensky said. "They're a punch you in the mouth kind of team. We had a choice and we wanted to play. We wanted to prove we could compete."
The Lady Vols had a battle ahead when three starters – including junior forward Hannah Wilkinson, senior defender Caroline Capocaccia and sophomore defender Gabby Santorio – were absent for at least the majority of the game.
Throughout the first half, the Lady Vols maintained possession with help from solid defensive play. Junior defender Allie Sirna remains as the only Tennessee player that has played the full 830 minutes of the 2013 season.
With Tennessee out-shooting the Aggies 7-4 in the first half, UT adamantly pursued its target. Utilizing the right side of the pitch and freshman forward Amy Neal's speed, UT continued to knock on opportunity's door as the game wore on.
Finally, Katie Lenz was fouled in the box to set up a penalty kick for the Lady Vols in the 32nd minute. Senior midfielder Caroline Brown stepped up to the ball and put it past the keeper in the upper right corner to give the Lady Vols the lone score of the game.
"I've hit a few in the past," Brown said regarding her penalty kick. "I was in the zone. I don't hear anything or see anything. I was focused on what I needed to do."
There was a slight shift in momentum during the second half. The Aggies continued to pound the ball into Tennessee's defensive half to no avail.
The Aggies have scored 13 of their 18 goals after halftime on the season, but UT junior goalkeeper Julie Eckel ended the game with four saves and her fifth shutout of the season against Texas A&M's 15 total shots.
"Coming into the game we were really pumped up and excited to play them," Eckel said. "At halftime we knew it wasn't going to be easy. We knew we had to come out with the same mentality. We were fighting through it. They did get a lot of opportunities but we couldn't get down on ourselves and we had to keep fighting."
UT next plays on the road in another SEC match up on Friday against LSU in Baton Rouge, La.