Sept. 26, 2008
COLUMBIA, S.C. - On the strength of a goal in the 74th minute by freshman defender Natalie Aaron, South Carolina topped the Tennessee women's soccer team, 2-1, on Friday night. The Lady Vols fell to 3-6-0 overall and 0-1-0 in league play following the opening match of the Southeastern Conference season.
The Gamecocks put away the game winner after sophomore defender Brittiny Rhoades played a ball to freshman forward Kayla Grimsley who dished to Aaron who was streaking up the left flank. From there, Aaron made her move into the box going one-on-one with UT senior keeper Jaimel Johnson and beating her on the ground to her right.
"I give credit to South Carolina for battling and getting two goals past the best goalkeeper in the country," UT Head Coach Ange Kelly. "This team needs to figure out its identity and its purpose and it needs to do it very quickly. Life can challenge a group of individuals in many different ways and I believe adversity exposes character, not builds it."
South Carolina first got on the board in the 18th minute. Rhoades lofted a corner kick into the box where junior defender Blakely Mattern drove a header into the back of the net. The goal was the second of the season for Mattern, the 2007 SEC Defender of the Year.
Though South Carolina only out-shot the Lady Vols by two in the first frame, the Gamecocks controlled the pace for most of the half. Of South Carolina's eight shots, seven were on goal, forcing Johnson to make five saves, including two diving saves from close range.
Tennessee came out of the break looking to score, taking three shots in the first 20 minutes of half. Meanwhile, South Carolina put just two shots on goal in the final frame. The Lady Vols had a quality scoring opportunity in the 49th minute, when sophomore midfielder Tanya Emerson put a shot from 18 yards off the top of the crossbar.
UT nearly found the back of the net again 20 minutes later as Emerson, junior midfielder Mick Imgram and freshman forward Emily Dowd put together a nearly perfect combination inside 18 yards. After Emerson fed the ball to Imgram on the left side, she laid it into the center of the box for Dowd whose shot missed wide left.
That trio was involved again when the equalizer came in the 68th minute on an own goal by South Carolina. After a ball in the box slipped away from Gamecocks keeper Mollie Patton in the box, Lady Vol freshman forward Emily Dowd took a shot on the open net that deflected off South Carolina defender Samantha Diaz-Matosas and into the back of the net.
Overall the two teams were equal in the shots category, each taking 14 in the match. The Gamecocks, however, put nine of their shots on frame, forcing Johnson to make six saves. Patton needed two saves to earn her seventh victory of the season.
"The character of this team is strong and we have no other choice but to fight and to continue to execute each game plan and battle for 90 minutes," Kelly said. "That's the foundation of the Tennessee soccer program and we will persevere."
Tennessee now looks ahead to Sunday's match with 16th-ranked Florida. The rival Gators are defending SEC Triple Crown winners and played Georgia on Friday night. The Lady Vols have taken each of the last five regular season matches against UF. Sunday's kick off is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Florida's Pressly Stadium in Gainesville. Live stats will be available at utladyvols.com.