Sept. 20, 2009
By Brian Davis, Assistant Media Relations Director
MORGANTOWN, W. VA. - Despite hitting the left post with the potential equalizing goal with under two minutes left in regulation, the Tennessee Lady Vol soccer team (4-3-1) saw its four-match unbeaten string come to an end on Sunday in front of 1,017 fans at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium in Morgantown, W. Va., in a 1-0 loss to No. 25 West Virginia.
Junior goalkeeper Molly Baird was outstanding between the pipes, suffering a tough defeat after posting a career-high 10 saves in the contest. Sophomore midfielder Chelsea Hatcher led the Lady Vol offense with three shots, including the fateful carom off the woodwork at 88:04.
"Today was a perfect test for our Southeastern Conference preparation," Lady Vol head coach Angela Kelly said. "West Virginia played extremely well and deserved to win. I think it's fair to say we know the things we need to work on and tighten up before our league openers next weekend. I believe our non-conference schedule has tested us as I'd hoped. We've played very tough opposition from virtually every different region. The real season starts on Friday at Arkansas. That's what we're here for, SEC play and the postseason."
The home-standing Mountaineers created the first scoring chance by advancing deep into UT territory during the match's opening two minutes. A shot from the left wing by WVU forward Bry McCarthy didn't seem to bother Baird as the Raleigh, N.C., native easily corralled the low roller.
Baird came up with her first credited save in the third minute as Old Gold & Blue forward Blake Miller eluded a Big Orange defender on the right wing, after the UT player stumbled attempting to swipe the ball, and ripped a shot right to the netminder.
A brief trip into West Virginia territory in the early going amounted to a long shot from approximately 30 yards out on the left wing by Lady Vol senior forward Mick Imgram that drifted wide.
Another McCarthy attempt on frame during the fifth minute of action was parried away by a diving Baird for her second stop and eventually cleared out of trouble by the Lady Vol backline as WVU mounted sustained early pressure.
The assault continued from the Mountaineers, but Baird remained up to the task making saves on shots from Miller at 8:21 and forward Megan Mischler at both 9:39 and 15:04.
At the 18:35 mark Tennessee freshman forward Jayden Barrett attempted to get something going from an offensive standpoint for the Orange & White, but her shot at goal was wide of frame for a goal kick.
WVU midfielders Carolyn Blank and Bri Rodriguez forced additional stops by Baird at 20:23 and 23:29, respectively. Then, Mischler just missed the top left corner from deep out on the right wing out as UT's very own "brick wall" kept the match scoreless.
A build up through the midfield during the 33rd minute consisting of passes from Imgram to freshman defender Ali Hall to Hatcher resulted in a long blast from the latter that was blocked up the middle by a WVU defender.
West Virginia was stoned yet again at approximately 38:58 as a through ball up the right wing found midfielder Ashtin Larkin with a step on her defender. She unleashed a right-footed blast from about 14 yards out, forcing Baird to dive fully-extended to her right to punch the ball away two-handed for her eighth save of the first half.
Lady Vol sophomore forward Emily Dowd posted the final promising offensive opportunity of the first stanza for UT by managing a shot that drifted wide of the frame at 40:40.
Tennessee's goalkeeping effort and continuous tough marking from the UT defense kept the Big Orange in the match during the first half as the Mountaineers forced a career-high 10 saves from Baird over the first 45 minutes.
Opening the second half, Dowd nearly took advantage of a bobble by West Virginia goalkeeper Kerri Butler in the 47th minute. The Old Gold & Blue netminder raced out to the near corner of the 18-yard zone to corral a ball, bobbled it with the Lady Vol forward standing just in front of her but managed to hold on to the orb for no damage.
The UT offense seemed more confident in the early going of the second stanza as Barrett managed a blast from the left wing at 51:28 that drifted wide right.
The Mountaineers quickly counter-attacked in the 54th minute, however, as a long ball found Miller racing up the right wing. Big Orange sophomore defender Hannah Hut hustled back to hassle the WVU forward just enough as an eventual shot from about 15 yards barely missed wide right.
With about 31 minutes remaining in the match, West Virginia's Blank decided to fire away from deep out on the left wing. Her shot from approximately 28 yards dropped towards the goal, but ricocheted off the crossbar and over the end line for a goal kick.
The scoreless deadlock was finally broken at 71:30 off a corner taken by the Mountaineers. On the cross, Baird punched the sphere out of danger, but the rebound traveled right to WVU's Larkin standing on the right side. She corralled the ball, turned to the middle and fired left of the diving keeper for a 1-0 lead.
A long ball up trying to reach Dowd with about eight minutes left in regulation forced a throw-in in West Virginia's zone. Hatcher received a pass from deep in the far corner, turned and launched a shot that was wide of net.
With time running short, Tennessee pressed hard for an equalizer. Hatcher posted the biggest threats at 86:53 when she forced a save by Butler and then at 88:04 when her shot tantalizingly hit the left post and bounced away for a goal kick. That proved UT's last big offensive opportunity as the Lady Vols fell 1-0 to drop to 4-3-1 on the year.
Tennessee continues its season-long five-match road swing over Sept. 25-27, by christening the Southeastern Conference schedule with visits to Fayetteville, Ark., and Baton Rouge, La. The Big Orange will battle Arkansas on Friday night at 8 p.m. ET and LSU on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET. Live stats will be available through utladyvols.com.