Oct. 5, 2008
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - On the strength of a second-half goal from sophomore forward Devon Swaim, the University of Tennessee women's soccer team posted its second straight victory, downing Arkansas, 2-0, on Sunday. The win marked the first time this season that the Lady Vols have notched back-to-back victories and improved the team to 5-7-0 overall and 2-2-0 in Southeastern Conference play.
"This was a different set of 11 players out on the field this weekend," Swaim said. "You can tell that we want it. I think this is definitely a turning point and we are going to keep this momentum going."
Swaim's game winner came just three minutes into the second half when senior forward Kylee Rossi brought the ball to the endline before crossing it into the box. There, Swaim connected from six yards, placing her shot into the lower right corner to beat Razorback sophomore keeper Britni Williams to her left. The goal was the Levittown, Pa., native's second of the season and first since Sept. 19.
"That goal was a long time coming," Swaim said. "Kylee worked hard and got to the endline and I was just in the right spot. I did exactly what coach said to do, put it on the face and see what happens. It was a good team goal."
The score marked the second consecutive match in which the Lady Vols have scored in the first five minutes of the second frame. On Friday, the Orange and White notched two goals in the 49th minute of play in a 2-1 win over No. 15 LSU.
"Every time we play against Arkansas, it's always difficult at the beginning of the game," UT Head Coach Angela Kelly said. "I knew in a game like this that Arkansas wasn't going to go away. They were going to keep coming at us if we gave them the opportunity. So we needed to really fight for that first goal. What we really focused on at halftime was finding a way to get that first goal as quickly as possible and Devon Swaim had a great individual effort there."
Tennessee again connected from short range in the 62nd minute to add a little insurance on the scoreboard. This time, the cross came into the box from junior midfielder Mick Imgram and found Rossi's feet. The Pennington, N.J., native scored for the eighth time this season, making a well-timed run into the box and beating Williams from 10 yards out. The assist was Imgram's team-leading third of the season, giving her five points on the year.
"I think we created good opportunities in the first half and we couldn't put one away," Kelly said. "After the first goal we were able to settle down. We were really concentrating on a renewed effort in the attacking third at halftime and that's what you saw."
The second half saw a reenergized Arkansas team put together several scoring chances. After going without a shot in the first half, the Razorbacks worked their way into Tennessee's defensive third, putting four of their six shots on frame. Arkansas' best opportunity came in the 68th minute when senior midfielder Abbey Wilburn forced UT senior keeper Jaimel Johnson to make a diving save to her left, pushing a low, hard shot out over the endline.
Though both teams were scoreless in the first half, Tennessee controlled the pace of play. The Lady Vol backline of junior Sarah Jackyra, sophomores Melissa Speros and Grace Cuenin, redshirt freshman Molly Delk and true freshman Hannah Hut held the Razorbacks without a shot in the half. On the other end, the Orange and White took 10 shots, putting three on goal.
Overall, the Lady Vols dominated the match, out-shooting the Razorbacks 20-6 and forcing Williams to make five saves. Johnson needed four saves to keep Arkansas out of the back of the net and record her third blank sheet of the season. The shutout marks the fourth time in five wins that Tennessee has held its opponent scoreless.
In the win, Imgram notched her third point of the weekend after scoring the opening goal in the victory over LSU, while Rossi posted two goals and an assist in the second week of SEC play, totaling five points and breaking the UT career points record on Friday against the Tigers.
After two conference-opening defeats last weekend on the road, the Lady Vols turned things around to move to .500 in league play this weekend. UT looked confident and loose on the field and improved its home record to 4-1-0 this season, shutting out nine of its last 11 opponents at Regal Stadium.
"We had a really laid back week and the focused was completely changed," Swaim said. "Before we were afraid to lose and now we just have nothing to lose, which allows us to just go out there and play. We just gave it all that we have and leave it out on the field and I think that's what every single person out there did."
The Lady Vols will wrap up their season-long four-game homestand next weekend, playing host to Kentucky and Vanderbilt. UT will look to continue its turn around on Oct. 10 at 7 p.m. against the Wildcats and Oct. 12 at 2 p.m. versus the Commodores.
"Getting two wins this weekend is definitely what we needed to do," Rossi said. "We needed it, just to refocus and get the idea back out to the conference that we're here to play."