Aug. 21, 2008
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The University of Tennessee women's soccer team kicks off the 2008 season on Friday night at Chattanooga. The Lady Vols enter the season ranked 13th in the preseason National Soccer Coaches Association (NSCAA)/adidas poll and return eight starters from 2007.
The Orange and White finished last season with a 15-5-2 overall record after making its seventh straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament and earning the fifth Sweet 16 berth in program history. Last year, UT got off to its best start ever, opening the season with a 7-1-1 record and earning its highest ranking at No. 6 in the NSCAA/adidas poll on Oct. 2, 2007.
Tennessee boasts an experienced senior class featuring forward Kylee Rossi and goalkeeper Jaimel Johnson, both listed on the 2008 MAC Hermann Trophy Preseason Watch List. Rossi was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Year for the second consecutive year in 2007, while Johnson became the program's third NSCAA All-American. The Orange and White also welcome seven true freshmen and four redshirt freshmen to the squad.
Chattanooga is coming off a season that saw it go 2-12-2 overall, finishing 10th in Southern Conference. Nine regular starters return for the Lady Mocs, including sophomore midfielder Sara Franceson, who led the team with four goals in 2007. The match will mark the first time UTC has met a Southeastern Conference opponent since toppling Alabama in 2004.
Following Friday's game, UT will continue on with a challenging schedule featuring nine teams that reached the 2007 NCAA Tournament, including two Sweet 16 participants in Indiana and No. 3 North Carolina next weekend in College Station, Texas. The Big Orange will then open its home slate with the First Tennessee Lady Vol Classic on Sept. 5 and 7. The tournament will feature Washington State, No. 19 Illinois and 2007 NCAA Quarterfinalists No. 12 West Virginia.
First, however, Tennessee will be looking to earn its first victory in an opener away from home since 2001. The Lady Vols and Lady Mocs are set to kick off at 7 p.m. at the North River Soccer Complex in Chattanooga, Tenn.
The Lady Vols have compiled a 7-5 record all time in season openers, playing on the road or at a neutral site six times to kick off the year. Tennessee has won its first match on the schedule three times in the last five years, but hasn't won away from home to open the season since 2001. This year marks the first time since 2005 that UT has played away from home in its initial match. The Orange and White traveled to Topeka, Kan., that year to take on No. 1 North Carolina in the Heartland Classic, falling to the Tar Heels, 7-1.
Return of the MAC
For the third consecutive year, a Lady Vol has earned a spot on the Missouri Athletic Club (MAC) Hermann Trophy Preseason Watch List. This year, Jaimel Johnson and Kylee Rossi are among 47 players chosen to the 2008 watch list for the prestigious award which is presented each year to the top player in Division I women's soccer. Johnson and Rossi's selection marks the first time in program history that two players from UT have earned a spot on the watch list.
Johnson set a new UT standard for saves in a season last year, making 111 in her 22 starts. The Dayton, Ohio, native recorded 10 solo shutouts while being named to the All-SEC First Team. In the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 loss to Portland, Johnson recorded a career-high 12 saves after facing 28 Pilots' shots.
Johnson enters the 2008 campaign needing just two shutouts to move into second all-time at Tennessee. Her 0.96 career goals against average ranks her behind only former Lady Vol Vanessa Phillips-Bosshart in that category in the UT annals. This season, Johnson will look to direct a young backline that lost two starters to graduation last year.
Rossi makes her second consecutive appearance on the Hermann Trophy Watch List after becoming Tennessee's all-time leading goal scorer in 2007 with 30 career strikes. Last year, Rossi set four new Lady Vol career records and one single season mark. Along with career goals, the Pennington, N.J., native now leads UT in all-time game winners (12), overtime game winners (4) and shots (249). She also established a new single season record last year with 96.
For her efforts in 2007, Rossi earned her second consecutive SEC Offensive Player of the Year Award and a spot on the Soccer Buzz All-America Third Team. The forward enters the 2008 season needing just 14 points to surpass former Lady Vol and Canadian Olympic Team member Rhian Wilkinson for the program's all-time scoring record. Teamed with one of Tennessee's strongest returning midfields, Rossi will look to continue her record setting this season.
The Orange and White has had two players named semifinalists for the Hermann Trophy in Kim Patrick and current assistant coach Keeley Dowling. Patrick was named a finalist in 2002, while Dowling earned a spot among the semifinalists in both 2003 and 2004.
Lowdown on the Lady Mocs
The 2008 edition of the Chattanooga women's soccer team is looking to rebound from a two-win season in 2007. The Lady Mocs are led by ninth-year head coach J.D. Kyzer who sports a 114-105-15 career head coaching record, and led the 2004 squad to a school record 12 wins.
UTC returns nine starters from last season's team and will look to sophomore midfielder Sara Franceson and junior forward Chelsea Hurst to lead the offense after combining to score more than half of the teams' goals in 2007. After the departure of keeper Junni Milla, the Lady Mocs will turn to freshman keeper Allie Preston who is set to make her debut on Friday.
The Lady Vols and UTC have met three times in program history, with the Orange and White holding a 3-0 advantage all time. UT has allowed just one goal to the Lady Mocs in the three matches, while outscoring Chattanooga 21-1. The teams' last meeting came 10 years ago in Knoxville, when the Big Orange scored a 5-1 win.
UT Polling Place
Tennessee opens the season ranked in the top-20 of four national preseason polls. The Lady Vols took the No. 13 spot in both the Soccer America and NSCAA/adidas rankings, while coming in at No. 16 in the Top Drawer Soccer listing and No. 17 according to SoccerTimes.com.
Tennessee is joined conference-wise by 13th-ranked Florida and 19th-ranked Georgia in the SoccerTimes.com poll, while Top Drawer Soccer listed the Gators at No. 18 and the Bulldogs in the No. 24 spot. The Orange and White are set to face three teams ranked in both polls during its non-conference schedule in No. 3 North Carolina, No. 12/14 West Virginia and No. 24/20 Illinois.
In 2007, the Orange and White earned its highest ranking in program history at No. 6 in the NSCAA/adidas poll on Oct. 2 after opening the season 7-1-1 and downing No. 12 South Carolina and No. 15 Florida to kick off the SEC slate.