11th-ranked Vols drop SEC opener to No. 15 South Carolina

On a rainy Sunday afternoon at Regal Soccer Stadium, No. 11 Tennessee lost 2-0 to 15th-ranked South Carolina.

Vols head coach Brian Pensky refused to blame the weather for Tennessee’s loss, calling it a “non-issue.”

Instead, he focused on his team’s “first half effort,” which Pensky called “passive.”

He said he expected more from his team on Sunday, that he looks for the Vols to come out “playing with their hair on fire.”

That didn’t happen.

Instead, South Carolina came out firing, with the Gamecocks controlling the ball and taking eight shots to Tennessee’s four.

Just seven minutes into the first half, that aggression paid off, as Lauren Chang sent a sailing corner kick over the Tennessee defense and into the net.

That goal lifted the Gamecocks to a 1-0 lead that they refused to relinquish, despite Tennessee’s best efforts.

Chang’s score marked the first goal allowed at home by Tennessee goalkeeper Shae Yanez this season, and only her second goal allowed this season.

After his team’s play in the first half, Pensky knew that the Lady Vols needed an “injection” of aggressiveness into their play, so that’s what he gave them at halftime.

Something must have clicked, as Tennessee opened fire 13 times in the second half. One attempt from Bunny Shaw hit the top of the crossbar, but the score remained 1-0.

Because of its lead, South Carolina focused its second-half efforts on defense, taking just four more shots.

One of those shots found its target, though, as Riley Tanner netted the Gamecocks’ second goal late in the match to give South Carolina a 2-0 lead.

Despite the loss, Pensky found plenty to be happy with in his team’s second-half effort, saying that “everything in the second half” was “exactly what we wanted.”

Pensky commended South Carolina’s “stingy” defense, but he also praised his own team’s ability to “challenge the goalkeeper.. probably more than she’s been challenged all season.”

Now 0-1 in the SEC, Tennessee will look to bounce back from its loss on Thursday at Ole Miss. First touch is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. in Oxford.

Featured image courtesy of Hannah Roberson.