Sept. 19, 2008
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - A dynamic offense and staunch defense led the University of Tennessee women's soccer team to a 3-0 victory over Western Carolina at Regal Soccer Stadium on Friday night. The Lady Vols got three goals from three different scorers in the win, posting their third shutout of the season.
"It's wonderful to have the winning result," UT Head Coach Angela Kelly said. "Once again we created numerous scoring opportunities. At moments, we looked extremely dynamic and that's the kind of rhythm we need to find ourselves in, especially heading into conference play."
Tennessee first got on the board in the 43rd minute when senior forward Kylee Rossi notched her team-leading fourth goal of the season. Freshman midfielder Chelsea Hatcher won a header and found the feet of Rossi inside the box, where she put a shot off the inside of the crossbar and into the back of the net. The score moved Rossi within six points of setting a new scoring record at Tennessee, while the assist marked Hatcher's first point of her collegiate career.
The first half saw plenty of action on the Western Carolina end of the field. The Lady Vols took 13 shots in the first frame, putting five on goal. Rossi and junior midfielder Mick Imgram led the way for UT, combining for eight shots in the initial 45 minutes. Imgram just missed high twice, rifling two shots that nearly skimmed the top of the crossbar. The Orange and White defense held the Catamounts to just two shots in the half, none of which required a save from Lady Vol senior keeper Jaimel Johnson.
Coming out of the locker room with the 1-0 lead, Tennessee continued to control the pace of the match. Though the Catamounts tripled their shot output in the second frame, the Lady Vols added another 16 shots of their own. Rossi and Imgram continued their assault on WCU keeper Caitlin Williams, posting another eight shots in the half.
The Orange and White added its second goal of the match in the 65th minute. After Imgram crossed a ball to senior midfielder Alissa VonderHaar on the left side of the box, the Bolingbrook, Ill., native took a touch before sliding a diagonal shot on the ground past Williams and into the back right corner of the goal. The score was VonderHaar's first of the season and marked the second helper of the year for Imgram, Tennessee's assists leader a year ago.
"Mick Imgram has wonderful vision and she played a great through ball," Kelly said. "Mick was serving players in the box all night. Alissa had great composure in the box and executed perfectly. To have three different goal scorers in a three-goal game shows that we're starting to share the responsibility and if we're going to be successful that's what's going to have to happen."
With just under a minute remaining in the match, sophomore forward Devon Swaim sealed the win with her first goal of the season. After freshman forward Emily Dowd brought the ball into the right side of the box, she dished it to Swaim near the penalty spot where she put it away on the ground. With the assist, Dowd moves into a tie for second on the squad with three points on the year.
"Emily Dowd's very unselfish play led to the third goal," Kelly said. "She laid it back to Devon who had a great finish. That was wonderful to see. We're seeing some great results for all the work we're putting in. It's a relief to see that starting to come together."
With the offense rolling, the Lady Vol defense made sure to control the Catamount attack. Despite allowing six WCU shots in the second frame, UT's backline held steady, allowing just one corner kick and three shots on goal. The shutout was Tennessee's third in as many wins this season.
"I thought our two center backs did very well," Kelly said. "Their communication and composure on the backline are getting better and better."
Western Carolina's best scoring chance came just over seven minutes into the second half when freshman forward Kayla Beauduy nearly snuck a strike inside the left post. Johnson, however, made the diving save, deflecting the shot out for the Catamount's only corner. The Dayton, Ohio, native's three saves led her to her second clean slate of the season, moving her ahead of former Lady Vol Ellen Dean on the career shutouts chart with 17.
"Jaimel Johnson had an outstanding match," Kelly said. "The thing I was most impressed with, other than the shutout, was that she was demanding the ball at her feet. I think that once she gets to the next level, with the national team or in the pros, that will be the one part of her game that she'll need to continue to develop. She is becoming more vocal in the back and that's just awesome to see."
The Lady Vols finished the match with 29 shots, putting 13 of those on frame and forcing the Catamount defense to work hard making 10 total saves including a kick save by a defender on a shot by VonderHaar in the 71st minute.
"I think Western Carolina gave us a great battle tonight," Kelly said. "I was impressed with their commitment to work and battle for the entire 90 minutes."
Hatcher had a solid match, seeing 57 minutes of action and creating several scoring chances for the Orange and White in the midfield. The Cincinnati, Ohio, native entered the match in the first half, sparking the offense and setting up Rossi's goal just nine minutes later.
"Both the team and the coaches selected Chelsea Hatcher as the player of the game," Kelly said. "She had a dominating header in the midfield that created the first goal. She was tenacious; she battled and was very physical. She created numerous opportunities in the second half, so I was really pleased to see that. She's really starting to come into her own."
With the win, Tennessee improves to 3-5-0 overall and 2-1-0 at home this year. The Lady Vols have allowed just one goal in the last nine matches at Regal Stadium, dating back to Sept. 27, 2007.
The victory over WCU caps the non-conference season for Tennessee which will begin the SEC slate next week. The Lady Vols have a full week to prepare for a tough weekend when they will travel to South Carolina and Florida to open the conference schedule. UT will be back in action next Friday, Sept. 26 at 7 p.m. against the Gamecocks in Columbia, S.C.