Aug. 9, 2012
No. 20 Marie-Eve Nault, a UT alum, goes up for a ball against France on Thursday (Getty Images)
COVENTRY, England – The resilient Canadian women’s soccer team and Tennessee soccer alums Rhian Wilkinson and Marie-Eve Nault earned bronze on Thursday, defeating France, 1-0, on a thrilling closing-seconds goal by Diana Matheson. Wilkinson and Nault are the first UT soccer alums to earn Olympic medals.
The incredible finish was a fitting end for the scrappy Canadian team. Just three days earlier, Canada fell to the U.S., 4-3, in a high-octane semifinal that was decided on Alex Morgan’s header in the closing seconds of extra time.
In the second minute of stoppage time at the end of the game, the Canadians had only taken two shots to the France’s barrage of 25. Kaylyn Kyle took Canada’s third shot and a French defender blocked it in front of the goalkeeper, bouncing the ball right to Matheson for the easy score.
No. 7 and UT alum Rhian Wilkinson (back) fights for the ball against France on Thursday (Getty Images)
Wilkinson anchored the back line for the full 90 minutes in the bronze medal game. She has been a stalwart on defense for the Canadians throughout the Olympics, starting every game and going wire to wire in the team’s last five games. Her fiery play was at its best against the U.S. in the semifinals as she made the vaunted American attack truly work for its goals.
Nault started on Thursday and added 83 minutes of solid defense as well. She made her Olympic debut in Canada’s 2-2 tie against Sweden and continued to start every game for the team from then on. Nault’s expertise on the back line was crucial for the Canadians as they picked up shutouts against Great Britain and France en route to the bronze.
Wilkinson and Nault are the 45th and 46th Tennessee athletes all-time to earn medals in the Olympics.