Sept. 4, 2008
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The University of Tennessee women's soccer team opens its home season with the ninth annual First Tennessee Lady Vol Classic this weekend. The Lady Vols play host to No. 13 West Virginia, No. 15 Illinois and Washington State for the event. UT will face off against the Mountaineers and Fighting Illini on Friday and Sunday, respectively.
The Lady Vol Classic is set to kick off with Washington State and Illinois meeting at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, followed by 20th-ranked Tennessee and WVU at 8 p.m. Sunday's proceedings will open with West Virginia and the Cougars at 11:30 a.m., while the Illini and Lady Vols will cap the tournament at 2 p.m.
The Orange and White enter the weekend with a 1-2-0 overall record after posting an 0-2 record during its road trip to College Station, Texas. last week. UT suffered its first defeat of the season on Aug. 29, falling to Indiana. Despite hanging with No. 2 North Carolina on Aug. 31, Tennessee fell to the Tar Heels, 1-0. The Lady Vols have not scored in the last 200 minutes of play.
The Big Orange will be looking to turn things around this weekend in the friendly confines of Regal Soccer Stadium. Tennessee has not suffered a defeat at home since the completion of the stadium in the summer of 2007. The Lady Vols come into the weekend riding a 14-match unbeaten streak at Rocky Top, and have not allowed an opponent to score there since Sept. 27, 2007.
West Virginia comes to Knoxville for the second time in program history and sports a 2-0 record all-time against UT. The two teams last met in 2005, when the Mountaineers came away with a 1-0 victory in Morgantown, W.Va. WVU boasts a 2007 NCAA Elite Eight appearance and enters the weekend with a 2-1-0 record.
The Fighting Illini have put together their best start since 2004, going 3-0-0 so far. Last weekend, Illinois posted wins over Iowa State and Dayton to win their own Illini Challenge Cup. The Lady Vols and Illini have never faced each other.
The last time Washington State traveled to Knoxville, the Cougars upset the 11th-ranked Big Orange, 3-2, in overtime on Sept. 2, 2005. WSU will be looking to repeat its top-25 toppling history as it faces No. 15 Illinois and No. 13 West Virginia this weekend. The Cougars are 1-0-2 on the year and played back-to-back double-overtime draws last weekend against James Madison and William & Mary.
The 2008 First Tennessee Lady Vol Classic kicks off on Friday night with Washington State and Illinois, followed by West Virginia and the host Lady Vols at 8 p.m. at Regal Soccer Stadium. Livestats for all four of the weekend's matches will be available at utladyvols.com.
Lady Vols Suffer First Defeat in Texas
Tennessee faced two setbacks over Labor Day weekend, falling to both Indiana and No. 2 North Carolina in College Station, Texas. The Lady Vols dropped their first match of the season, 2-0, to the Hoosiers on Friday night, giving up the penalty kick game winner in the 69th minute. Despite controlling possession throughout the match and out-shooting IU, 24-16, the Orange and White could not find the back of the net and allowed Indiana's second goal with just 35 seconds remaining in the match.
Tennessee's scoring struggles continued on Sunday, as UNC recorded a 1-0 win. The result, however, was the closest between the two teams since a scoreless tie in 2004. The Orange and White defense held Carolina scoreless for the final 63 minutes of the match, cutting the Tar Heels' shot total in half after the break. The Lady Vols were led by junior midfielder Mick Imgram's 13 shots on the weekend.
The Lady Vol Classic has not always been kind to its hosts, as the Orange and White have taken the tournament title just three times in eight years. Last year's squad, however, went 2-0 to take home its second consecutive crown. North Carolina has taken home the title twice, while Texas A&M, George Mason and Xavier have each won the tournament once.
Tennessee has earned both the Offensive and Defensive MVP awards in each of the last two years. In 2007, Kylee Rossi took the offensive honors, while keeper Jaimel Johnson, who allowed just one goal, was named the tournament's top defensive player. The Lady Vols' first MVP of their home tournament came in 2003, when former defender and current assistant coach Keeley Dowling collected the award.
The 2007 edition of the Lady Vol Classic featured No. 7 Penn State, UNC Greensboro and UCF. Tennessee opened the season and tournament with a 2-1 victory over the Nittany Lions on an unassisted blast from Mick Imgram. The midfielder also assisted on Tanya Emerson's goal earlier that night. The Lady Vols wrapped up the tournament title on Sunday with a 1-0 win over Minnesota. Devon Swaim converted on a penalty kick to secure the victory and the event's championship. Imgram and senior defender Jordan Falcusan joined Rossi and Johnson on the 2007 First Tennessee Lady Vol Classic All-Tournament Team.
Home is Where the Wins Are
Regal Soccer Stadium is the place to be to witness a Lady Vol victory. Tennessee posted a perfect 9-0-0 record at home last season, while shutting out the final six opponents to enter the stadium in 2007. The Orange and White enters its first homestand of 2008 in the midst of a 570-minute shutout streak at Rocky Top. The last loss for UT at home came at the hands of Kentucky in October 2006, a span of 22 months.
This weekend, the Lady Vols will look to continue their 14-match unbeaten streak at home against some tough competition in No. 13 West Virginia and No. 15 Illinois. Tennessee should not stress, however, as it has topped six consecutive ranked opponents in Knoxville, a streak that dates back to the 2005 season. In 2007, UT notched wins at home over No. 7 Penn State, No. 12 South Carolina and No. 15 Florida. The Orange and White has also claimed wins over top-25 teams in its home opener twice, including the Lady Vols' 2-1 victory over the Nittany Lions to open the First Tennessee Classic last year.
Scouting the Mountaineers
West Virginia enters the 2008 Lady Vol Classic with a 2-1-0 record after going 1-1 at last weekend's Inn at St. Mary's Classic in Notre Dame, Ind. The Mountaineers fell to then-No. 21 Santa Clara, 2-1, in double overtime before topping Loyola Marymount, 1-0. WVU is ranked 13th in this week's NSCAA/adidas poll.
The West Virginia offense is led by senior forward Deana Everrett and sophomore forward Megan Mischler. The duo has accounted for three of the squad's five goals and seven of its 13 points so far. Everrett, who found the back of the net once and assisted on another goal last weekend, was a 2006 Soccer Buzz All-American. Behind Everrett and Mischler are a pair of 2008 MAC Hermann Trophy hopefuls in senior midfielders Greer Barnes and Amanda Cicchini. The pair spurred the team to an NCAA Elite Eight berth in 2007, with Cicchini earning Soccer America National MVP Team honors for her efforts.
Defensively, sophomore keeper Kerri Butler has held opponents to just two goals in the first three matches. Butler sports a 0.64 goals against average and has already produced two shutouts this season.
Tennessee and West Virginia will meet for the third time in program history on Friday night. The Mountaineers have taken both previous meetings with the last coming in Morgantown on Sept. 4, 2005 when WVU recorded a 1-0 victory. West Virginia has held UT scoreless in the two matches. Tomorrow's game will mark the first time the Mountaineers have not been ranked in the top-10 when facing the Lady Vols. Tennessee is 4-3-0 all-time against BIG EAST teams.
Inside Scoop on the Illini
Illinois posted two wins last weekend to capture its own Illini Challenge Cup championship. The 15th-ranked Fighting Illini notched a win over Iowa State to open the tournament before downing Dayton, 1-0, in overtime to clinch the title. Illinois is now 3-0-0 on the season after topping then-No. 22 Missouri in overtime in its opener.
Five different players have scored goals for Illinois this season. Junior forward Chichi Nweke has notched two game winners for the Illini and has already matched her goal total from 2007. Senior midfielder Marti Desjarlais sits just behind Nweke on the stat sheet, dishing out the assist on the game winner against Iowa State last week.
Senior Emily Zurrer leads the Illinois defense. The Vancouver, British Columbia, native earned Soccer America National Team of the Week recognition after heading in the golden goal to top Dayton on Aug. 31. Zurrer also brings international experience to the Illini backline after starting every match for Team Canada in the 2008 Olympics alongside former Lady Vol Rhian Wilkinson.
Junior keeper Alexandra Kapicka notched her first shutout in the first start of her career in the 1-0 win over Dayton. Kapicka enters the weekend with an 0.65 goals against average.
Tennessee and Illinois will face off for the first time on Sunday. After falling to Indiana last weekend, UT is now 3-2-1 all-time against Big Ten Conference teams. The Hoosiers will take on Washington State on Friday at 5:30 p.m.