The Tennessee women’s soccer team won their first game of the season, 1-0, against Liberty University on Sunday.
Tennessee controlled possession early and maintained it throughout the match. The Vols were able to generate opportunities by holding up play and then pushing it down the sidelines. However, neither team could capitalize on chances in the first half to break a scoreless game.
Tennessee’s strong focus on holding possession left them vulnerable against counter attacks. Liberty sparked a scare in the 25th minute after a series of counters when they blitzed the middle of Tennessee’s defense, generating a well-timed shot on target, but hit the post. Liberty caught Tennessee by surprise multiple times, but not being able to connect for a goal was a common theme for the Lady Flames.
With seven minutes to go in the first half, Liberty’s keeper Holly Van Noord came out to clear the ball, but missed and left the goal unattended. Tennessee was unable to finish when Maya Neal’s shot went wide into the left goal post.
UT looked to have scored early in the second half, but the goal was disallowed due to obstructing Van Noord.
Liberty had its best opportunity midway through the second half when a through ball split Tennessee’s defenders. Centerback Kiah Allen looked like she was going to clear the ball with ease, but suddenly pulled up with what appeared to be a lower leg injury. A following Liberty attacker missed wide to end the threat.
Tennessee was able to break the deadlock in the 77th minute and scored when Maya Neal got free and scored off of a well-placed corner kick from Rylie O’Keefe.
Notable Player Performances
Rylie O’Keefe (Tennessee)
Simply put, O’Keefe was all over the field. She was a catalyst coming up from defense into the midfield, creating play after play. Her performance was rewarded with an assist on the lone goal.
Maya Neal (Tennessee)
Maya possesses speed and strength and knows how to use each. She stayed up top by herself for most of the game and she was a handful for the Lady Flames’ defense to try to handle. She missed a chance to score on an open net, albeit it was a difficult shot across goal. She also missed a few opportunities to feed teammates on counter attacks. She had good game overall and scored the winning goal.
Holly Van Noord (Liberty)
A poor decision late in the first half nearly gave an easy goal to Tennessee, but the Vols’ misplays rewarded her with more chances. She kept her team in the game until the end, including a nice double save. She did not keep the clean sheet, but the goal she let in was a difficult one to stop. Overall, she put together a solid performance.
Tennessee (1-1) plays its next game on Thursday, August 25 at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium against the Washington Huskies. The game begins at 7 p.m. EST and will be televised on the SEC Network.
Featured image by Alison P. McNabb, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics
Written by Austin Shands
Edited by Nathan Odom