Nov. 5, 2008
ORANGE BEACH, Ala. - Behind a 57th minute game winner from junior midfielder Mick Imgram, the University of Tennessee women's soccer team advanced to the next round of the 2008 SEC Tournament, topping Auburn, 2-1, on Wednesday. With the win over the third-seeded Tigers, the sixth-seeded Lady Vols move on to play No. 2 LSU in Friday's semifinal.
"I'm very, very pleased with this win," UT Head Coach Angela Kelly said. "I thought Tanya Emerson played great for us and had a lot of focus on that first goal. Chelsea Hatcher was tremendous in the midfield and that was a great finish from Mick Imgram. I'm very pleased with the effort that was given."
Tennessee got on the board early, taking a 1-0 lead in the third minute of the match. Sophomore midfielder Devon Swaim brought the ball up the right flank and lost it to an Auburn defender before winning it back and putting a cross in the box for sophomore forward Tanya Emerson. The Capistrano Beach, Calif., native timed her run perfectly, one-timing a shot from the left side of the box to the far post past Tigers keeper Allison Whitworth. The goal was Emerson's first of the season, while the helper marked Swaim's fourth this year.
"I knew that my team was going to work today," Emerson said. "I saw Devon fighting for it and she got it back. I knew it was coming my way into the far slot and I just did whatever I could to get into that space. I hit it first time and it went in, but it was Devon's work that got it there."
The Lady Vols set the pace during the initial 25 minutes of the match, out-shooting the Tigers 7-4 during that time span. The Orange and White had a good chance to take a two-goal lead when freshman midfielder Chelsea Hatcher ripped a shot that hit the crossbar in the 31st minute.
Auburn countered over the final 20 minutes of the half, taking another five shots to finish the first frame with a 9-7 advantage in shooting. The Tigers' best chance came in the 40th minute when a scramble in the box gave senior midfielder Kori Hoelscher an open look that was blocked, followed by a strike on the rebound from defender Julie King that forced senior keeper Jaimel Johnson to make her third save of the half.
Imgram scored the eventual game winner for the Orange and White in the 57th minute. The Clifton, Va., native blasted a rocket of a shot to the far post from 20 yards out on the right side, finding the back of the net for the 2-0 lead. The goal was Imgram's second of the season and marked the first time since Oct. 19 that the Lady Vols have scored multiple goals.
Just over five minutes later, Auburn answered with a goal of its own to shrink the UT lead to one. After a foul just inside the edge of the box on the left side, the Tigers were awarded a penalty kick. Senior defender Jenn Johnson stepped up to the spot for Auburn, converting the penalty for the Tigers first score of the match.
Despite putting eight of its 18 total shots on goal, Auburn could not score the equalizer. Johnson made four saves in the second half, including a diving save to her left on a shot from forward Rebecca Howell in the 54th minute. The Lady Vol defense held strong, though, giving Johnson her ninth win of the season while holding 2008 SEC Freshman of the Year Katy Frierson without a shot in the match.
"I knew coming into this tournament that we were just going to come out with all that we had and that's what we did," Emerson said. "From the start to the end we were fighting and it shows that we have the heart and what it takes to do it. Now it's just time to do it."
The Orange and White was led by Imgram and Hatcher, who each took three shots in the match. On the other side of the scoresheet, the Tigers out-shot UT 18-10, with Howell leading the way with seven shots, including three on frame.
"In my opinion Auburn is one of the most well-organized and talented teams around," Kelly said. "Katy Frierson is a great player and their whole team in combination is just a great unit. I have to give them credit. I'm really pleased about the win because I think it's over one of the best, if not the best, team in this conference."
The win marked the first for the Lady Vols in the SEC Tournament since 2006 and their third straight over Auburn at the event. Tennessee has now topped the Tigers in each of the teams' three meetings at the SEC Tournament. The Big Orange also got redemption after falling to AU in double overtime just two weeks ago.
Sixth-seeded Tennessee now advances to take on No. 2 LSU on Friday. The Tigers downed No. 7 Ole Miss, 2-1, in the first match on Wednesday. The Lady Vols and Tigers last met on Oct. 3, when UT earned a 2-1 win at Regal Stadium. LSU, however, has been on a roll since, winning seven of its nine matches and capturing a share of the SEC West crown.
The Tigers are led by 2008 SEC Offensive Player of the Year Malorie Rutledge's 34 points on eight goals and 18 assists this season. Defensively, freshman keeper Mo Isom has allowed just 13 goals this season, shutting out seven opponents and posting an 0.71 goals against average.
The Big Orange is 10-1-0 all-time against LSU, with the only loss coming last year. The two squads have met just once in SEC Tournament play, when the Lady Vols recorded a 2-0 victory in the 2005 first round.
Tennessee and LSU are set to kick off at 5 p.m. CT on Friday at the Orange Beach Soccer Complex. Live statistics will be available at utladyvols.com.