Aug. 27, 2009
By Brian Davis
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -After a solid opening to the 2009 campaign with last weekend's 2-0 blanking of intra-state foe ETSU, the 23rd-ranked Tennessee Lady Vol soccer team (1-0-0) now prepares to host its annual tournament, the First Tennessee Lady Vol Classic, over Aug. 28 & 30 at the Regal Soccer Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. Arizona State, Pepperdine and Kansas join UT in rounding out a four-team field.
The Big Orange will open its participation in the tourney at 8 p.m. ET on Friday night against Arizona State with its match slated to begin approximately 30 minutes after the conclusion of Kansas vs. Pepperdine (5:30 p.m.). UT will wrap up the event at 3 p.m. on Sunday against Pepperdine, while the Sun Devils and Jayhawks are slated to face-off at 12:30 p.m.
With the Lady Vol Classic having boasted rugged past opposition such as North Carolina, Stanford, Penn State and Texas A&M, Tennessee has won its home-hosted event on three occasions (2003, 2006 & 2007) while registering a 10-7-1 overall record. Last year UT split a pair of 1-0 decisions at the event, falling to No. 13 West Virginia and defeating No. 15 Illinois.
The Orange & White have faced both Arizona State and Pepperdine once before, downing ASU, 2-1, back on Oct. 5, 1997, in Tempe, Ariz., while dropping a 2-0 decision to the Waves in Malibu, Calif., last Sept. 12th.
Last Saturday night in the `09 season opener, Tennessee utilized two goals from senior forward Mick Imgram and the first career shutout from junior goalkeeper Molly Baird to roll past ETSU, 2-0. For Imgram, the offensive output marked the second two-score contest of her career and the first since Oct. 8, 2006 against Arkansas. The two tallies also equaled her goal-scoring output from the entire 2008 campaign. Sophomores Emily Dowd and Emily Shore each recorded an assist on the match's initial goal at 15:13. Baird, in her first career start replacing the departed Jaimel Johnson, faced just five shots and made three saves while getting tremendous support from her backline in the blanking. UT out-shot the Bucs by a commanding total of 21-5.
The Big Orange has now won nine of the program's 14 all-time season-opening lidlifters, including two in a row.
The Arizona State Sun Devils enter this weekend's tournament fresh off a 2-0 home shutout of UC-Irvine last Saturday night. The match was memorable for ASU not just because of the season-opening win, but also because lightning, rain and high winds caused the contest to be called in the 78th minute of action. The Sun Devils return 13 letterwinners and nine starters from last season's 8-8-4 squad for third-year head coach Kevin Boyd. Among those returnees are junior forward Karin Volpe (nine goals, 20 points in 2008) and senior goalkeeper Briana Silvestri (0.77 goals-against-average, 70 saves in 2008). Freshman forward Bianca Doller and junior midfielder Alexandra Elston scored the goals for Arizona State in its opener during the first 25 minutes of play.
Under the guidance of 12th-year head coach Tim Ward, Pepperdine has six players and 14 letterwinners back from a squad that posted a 9-9-2 overall mark in 2008. Lost in the off-season were three of the top four scorers from last year, but among the returnees is sophomore forward Laura Cole, who tallied six times in `08. The Waves are 1-0-0 in the early season after posting a come-from-behind, 2-1 overtime victory over Marquette last Sunday in Malibu, Calif. Down 1-0 with time running short, sophomore Michelle Spacciapolli scored in the 75th minute, setting the stage for "golden goal" heroics from senior Sophia Medina in the 98th minute. Medina, a recent Soccer America "National Team of the Week" selection, had an assist in Pepperdine's 2-0 win over Tennessee last season.
Live stats via Gametracker will be available for all four matches of the First Tennessee Lady Vol Classic, while live video is expected to be provided for the Big Orange's matches through utladyvols.com.