No. 21 Tennessee soccer drops first game of season

The Tennessee Volunteers were handed its first loss to the season in an overtime thriller with South Carolina on Sunday.

No. 21 Tennessee (9-1-1, 1-1-1 SEC) traveled to Colombia to take on No. 3 South Carolina (9-1-0, 3-0-0 SEC) at Stone Stadium on Sunday afternoon. The last two meetings between the two teams had been one-sided, as the Gamecocks outscored the Volunteers 6-0 in those matches. But on Sunday, Tennessee showed the development and progression they have made within its program.

Both of Tennessee’s last two games have gone into overtime, but Sunday’s match didn’t end the way head coach Brian Pensky wanted it to. South Carolina midfielder Lauren Chang scored the game-winning goal in the 95th minute of overtime to notch the win over the Volunteers.

A free-kick near the top of the box set up the Gamecocks for the game-winner. Striker Savannah McCaskill sent a ball into the box to Grace Fisk, who dumped it to Luciana Zello. Zello then took a touch that allowed Chang to finish it off over Tennessee goalkeeper Shae Yanez.

Both defenses were tested for the entirety of the game on Sunday, as a total of 27 shots were taken (eight on goal).  In the 50th minute, McCaskill had a one-on-one breakaway, but Yanez made a magnificent save to keep the Vols alive. Not ten minutes later, Yanez was tested by McCaskill in the box and had to make a diving stop.

Tennessee had a pair of scoring chances early on as well, starting in the 55th minute with midfielder Katie Cousins. Cousins nearly scored on a 32-yard free kick but was rejected by Gamecocks goalie Mikayla Krzeczowski. Just three minutes later, Vols forward Khadija Shaw headed a shot off the crossbar, as Tennessee could not get the rebound.

The Volunteers were out-shot 17-to-10 by South Carolina, and had two less corners on the night. South Carolina also held Tennessee to just one shot in the final 92 minutes of the contest, making the way for Chang to finish it off.

“It was a battle, and that’s what we were expecting – I’m not surprised it went to overtime,” said South Carolina head coach Shelley Smith.

“Our kids are both tough and resilient. They need to hold their heads high and just keep fighting,” said Pensky. “Results in these type of games will come.”

Tennessee will travel to Tuscaloosa on Thursday for their next game, as they take on Alabama at 7 p.m. ET on the SEC Network.

Edited by Ben McKee

Photo courtesy of Sara Yang / DailyGamecock Sports