Junior goalkeeper Molly Baird
Sept. 5, 2009
By Brian Davis, Assistant Media Relations Director
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. - Despite a pair of tough red card calls that forced the Tennessee Lady Vol soccer team (1-2-1) to play a woman down and without their head coach for over 50 minutes, a spirited effort from UT's squad, especially a dynamic backline, helped secure an entertaining 0-0 (2OT) tie against No. 19 Minnesota (2-1-1) on Friday evening in front of 856 fans at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn.
With the dynamic Lady Vol offense equaling the offensive output of the Golden Gophers at 19 total shots and three on frame, the rugged UT defense and junior goalkeeper Molly Baird continuously managed to clear the ball out of harm's way in the back.
"I'm proud of the continued maturity shown by this team," Lady Vol head coach Angela Kelly said. "Being not quite at full strength with not every individual back to 100 percent yet, we faced a hostile environment tonight and became a better team. I thought our backline played tremendous. Molly Baird had an exceptional game. We solved the numbers down in the midfield for over 50 minutes and were dynamic up top. The focus for our team is to get better every day. As we get healthier, I see this occurring especially in our young players. Not unlike last weekend, tonight was another invaluable experience."
Tennessee wasted no time getting an attack started, racing into Minnesota's defensive zone off the opening kick. Freshman forward Jayden Barrett forced a corner kick in the opening 40 seconds of the match with some impressive one-on-one work against her defensive counterpart in the right side of the 18-yard box.
The Golden Gophers turned up the pressure over the next few minutes of action, spending a majority of the time in UT's end of the pitch. The best early chance for the Maroon & Gold came when a through ball found UM midfielder Katie Bethke just clear of the defense inside the left side of the 18-yard box. She attempted a cross to the far post, but Baird raced out from her line to make a sliding grab and prevent any shot on goal.
At 10:10, sophomore forward Emily Dowd dribbled left past a defender, well inside the 18, and managed a cross to Harrison who was standing directly in front of the next about eight yards out. The Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, native just missed connecting with a right-footed shot, however, as the ball ricocheted to her right and harmlessly away.
Harrison had the best chance for UT in the opening 25 minutes as she received a perfect feed from junior defender Melissa Speros at 22:44 and ripped a shot from the center of the pitch (about 18 yards out) that drifted about eight feet high and wide of the frame.
With 15 minutes remaining in the opening stanza both defenses were playing superbly. The Lady Vol offense had managed one shot while UT's backline had blanked the Golden Gophers to the tune of zero shots in the match.
Sheri Eckstrom finally managed UM's initial shot with 12:45 left in the first frame, but fired well right of the net for a goal kick.
A terrific sign for the Big Orange occurred in the 36th minute as sophomore midfielder Chelsea Hatcher entered the contest as a substitute. The Cincinnati, Ohio, native had been on the injured list since suffering a bone bruise in her right knee during the exhibition versus Duke back on August 15.
Gopher forward Tamara Strahota recorded a good scoring opportunity for the Gophers in the 37th minute by forcing a corner after having her shot blocked out in front of the net. Baird made a great play on yet another corner just seconds later, racing off her line into a large crowd to punch the ball out of danger.
The teams retired to the locker room at the break scoreless with two shots apiece, while neither goalie was forced to make a save in the opening 45 minutes of action.
Lady Vol freshman defender Ali Hall got the second half off to a rousing start by firing a quick shot wide left of the net in the opening minute and a half.
Imgram forced a corner with 38:50 remaining in the contest on a shot that was blocked out in front. On the corner to the far post, Hall outjumped her rival on defense and headed a ball on goal that forced a save by Minnesota metminder Cat Parkhill.
The UM goalkeeper was forced to make another diving stop in the 57th minute on a quick bending blast from well out on the left wing off the foot of senior forward Mick Imgram.
A scary moment for the Lady Vols just moments later as a cross was driven from the right wing through the UT six-yard box. The ball was gathered on the left side and crossed from the left wing to the foot of UM's Kylie Kallman. The Gopher defender just missed it, arriving a second too late as her shot drifted just feet wide right.
A red card on a UT defender in the midfield during the 59th minute forced the Orange & White to play the rest of the match short one contributor. Kelly was issued a red card, just moments later, by the head referee for questioning the call.
Minnesota missed another chance to get on the scoreboard in the 66th minute as a long run up the right wing by forward Marissa Price ended in a solid cross to the middle. Strahota had hustled up the middle of the pitch into the play, but fanned on a shot attempt as the UT backline again cleared the ball out of harm's way.
A bad giveaway in the defensive zone with 11:45 remaining in the contest should have come back to haunt the Big Orange but didn't. On an attempted clear back to the goalkeeper, the pass was mishit allowing Minnesota's Bethke to run onto the ball inside the 18-yard zone. The forward side-stepped a charging Baird and had a wide open net at which to shoot. Her right-footed attempt literally rolled inches wide of the right post for a harmless goal kick. Bethke again missed just a minute later as her contested shot from the left wing rolled just wide of the far standard.
With the UT backline playing inspired soccer, the Lady Vols forced overtime despite playing a woman down for approximately the last 31 minutes of regulation.
The Gophers had several chances to score in the first overtime, but time and again the Lady Vol D and Baird were there to clear the ball away from danger.
A perfect cross from the right wing near the end line to the left post was nearly headed in by midfielder UM Molly Rouse as Baird again made a sterling save to prevent a Monnesota game-winner.
Imgram took a corner kick for the Big Orange with 4:45 left in the second OT. Harrison had a shot that was blocked out in front and a follow-up from Dowd also unfortunately failed to travel through the crowd in front of the net.
Hatcher drilled a blast from about 28 yards out that bent in on frame, forcing Parkhill to make a save to maintain the scoreless deadlock.
With time ticking away under a minute remaining, the Golden Gophers secured a corner but could do nothing with it offensively as the ball traveled over the end line past the far post for a goal kick.
That proved the last chance for either offense to break the deadlock as Tennessee managed a 0-0 tie to move to 1-2-1 on the campaign.
The Big Orange next turns its attention to the Wisconsin Badgers on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. ET at Robbie Stadium. Live stats via Gametracker will be available through utladyvols.com.