No. 11 Lady Vols fall to South Carolina, 2-1

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. ( -- In front of the second largest crowd in Lady Vol soccer history (2,846 fans) on Fri., Sept. 23, at the Regal Soccer Stadium, #11 Tennessee (7-2-0, 0-1-0 Southeastern Conference) managed to set an all-time program shutout record at 471:10 of game action but lost a 2-1 (2OT) heartbreaker to South Carolina (7-3-0, 1-0-0 SEC) in the league opener for both squads.

The Big Orange out-shot the Gamecocks 24-20 for the match and managed a 7-5 advantage on corner kicks. UT received the team-leading eighth goal of the season from sophomore forward Caroline Brown at 53:16, while senior forward Chelsea Hatcher picked up her squad-high fourth assist of the campaign. Freshman goalkeeper Julie Eckel was required to make six saves over her 106:54 of action between the pipes.

When S.C. scored 15:32 into the contest, Tennessee saw an end to its shutout streak at 471:10, but that total surpassed the previous program benchmark of 457:35 that was established from Sept. 7-21, 2007. In all, the Lady Vols strung together their record skein over portions of seven matches, originally starting late in the 2-1 defeat to #8 UCLA on Aug. 26.

“I thought it was a battle,” Lady Vol Head Coach Angela Kelly said. “I was pleased with the way that we executed. We were in 1-vs- 0 with the keeper numerous times. In that arena we need to be able to put the ball in the back of the net and tighten it up in the two red zones, I call it, of soccer in the attacking 18 and the defensive 18. Our backline did very well. Our midfield and Julie Eckel did very well. We didn’t get the result, and that’s the nature of this game. Credit South Carolina on being able to close it out.”

Early on in the contest the battle over the valuable midfield raged back-and-forth as neither team could manage a shot.

In fact, the first shot didn’t occur until the 10th minute when South Carolina forward Kayla Grimsley fired a drive from a sharp angle about 24 yards out on the right wing that was saved easily by Eckel.

On the other end of the pitch, Brown answered for the Lady Vols by fighting off her marker inside the 18-yard box, pivoting quickly and launching a quick shot that was blocked by the defense.

UT got oh-so-close to scoring first at 14:27 as a pass from the right wing by senior forward Emily Dowd was tapped from the middle to the left post. Sophomore midfielder Sanna Saarinen flicked a header towards goal that proved just inches high, landing on top of the netting for a goal kick.

Unfortunately, the Gamecocks took advantage of the near miss by registering the match’s opening goal just 1:05 later. A header from the left post into the middle was volleyed home from 12 yards out by midfielder Kortney Rhoades to make it 1-0.

The contest really opened up offensively over the rest of the half as both teams posted numerous scoring chances, the majority of them by Tennessee.

At 25:20 off a corner kick, Lady Vol junior midfielder Amy Harrison received a pass in the middle of the pitch just outside the top of the 18. The Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, native chipped a shot toward frame, but right into the waiting arms of Gamecock keeper Sabrina D’Angelo.

Over the remainder of the half, UT had numerous shots either blocked by the S.C. defense or travel wide, including drives by Dowd at 31:27 and junior midfielder Kylie Bono at 32:14.

With just three minutes left in the opening stanza, Bono teed up a bending shot from about 18 yards out on the left side that threatened the far post. D’Angelo managed a terrific diving stop to parry the ball away and over the end line for a corner.

Just 2:35 later, Lady Vol junior forward Alexis Owens also managed a header that traveled just over the crossbar and settled into the top netting as the Gamecocks held a 1-0 advantage at the break.

Right out of the locker room, Tennessee had a golden chance as Dowd broke in one-on-one against D’Angelo at 47:25. The Gainesville, Fla., native’s initial shot was saved, but the ball got past the keeper and headed towards the net. South Carolina’s Christa Neary raced back quickly and cleared the potential goal away only about two yards out to maintain the advantage.

With the Lady Vols applying strong pressure, they finally struck pay dirt at 53:16. A cross by Hatcher from the right wing to the left post was volleyed home from approximately eight yards out by Brown to dead-lock the score at 1-1.

They say the most dangerous time for any soccer team is right after scoring, and the Gamecocks nearly made UT pay at 55:49 as Rhoades found space up the right side and fired a shot that rolled just wide of the left post.

Dowd had another huge opportunity in the 60th minute as she again found herself in a one-on-one battle against D’Angelo. The net minder won the battle again, managing to stretch her right leg out just far enough to tip the promising drive away before it was cleared away by the S.C. defense.

The back-and-forth action continued as South Carolina forward Danielle Au blasted a shot that ricocheted off the crossbar at 70:25. A follow-up try by Grimsley ventured well high of frame as the tie contest continued.

Down the stretch of the second stanza Tennessee’s offense had the run of play, firing shot after shot at the S.C. goal. The Gamecock defense managed to block the majority of the drives, and D’Angelo managed yet another stretched-leg save on a shot by Brown at 81:30.

South Carolina did manage back-to-back corner kicks at 84:05 and 84:35, but could only manage a header from Neary that went wide of the left post as the teams would require overtime to settle things.

After a brief period of Gamecock control early in the first extra session, Tennessee’s offense took control. Three successive corners earned by the Lady Vols resulted in a pair of blocked shots by sophomore defender Tori Bailey as UT out-shot S.C., 2-0, in the initial OT.

The second overtime proved the exact opposite of the first as South Carolina applied the pressure in the final session. Off a free kick from about 24 yards out at 101:29, Grimsley bent a shot towards the left post that Eckel saved. The rebound shot straight up in the air but the Cordova, Tenn., native managed to catch the ball to prevent any follow-up.

The end came suddenly during the 106th minute of play as a long through ball up the middle from Grimsley found Rhoades in some space. She managed to beat Eckel from 12 yards out to end the match via “sudden victory.”

#11 Tennessee returns to action on Sun., Sept. 25, at 1 p.m. by hosting #6 Florida in a vital SEC Eastern Division match-up. The match will be broadcast on CSS beginning at 2 p.m. ET, with Justin Cazana and former Lady Vol soccer player Cameron (Conway) Broome on the call. The Big Orange will also be hosting a free post-match clinic for all youth that wish to attend.

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