Oct. 21, 2008
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - As the third weekend of October approaches, Alabama is also on the minds of the members of the Tennessee women's soccer team as they welcome the Crimson Tide on Thursday at 7 p.m. before traveling to Auburn for a Sunday afternoon matchup at 2 p.m. CT. The Lady Vols enter the penultimate week of the league slate with an 8-8-0 overall record and a 5-3-0 mark in conference play.
The Orange and White is coming off a weekend sweep in Mississippi that saw it top Ole Miss, 1-0, on Friday and earn a comeback win over Mississippi State on Sunday. Tennessee now sits in third place in the SEC East and boasts the conference's leading goal scorer in senior forward Kylee Rossi. The sweep marked UT's second pair of back-to-back victories this season and gives the Lady Vols five wins in the last six matches.
The Big Orange returns to Regal Soccer Stadium this week for its eighth home match of the year. So far, UT is 5-2-0 at home, allowing just five goals there this season. Tennessee has posted an 0.49 goals against average at home since the grand opening of the new stadium last year, shutting out nine of its last 13 opponents to visit Knoxville.
With just one road match remaining during the regular season, UT will be looking to continue its recent success away from home. Last weekend marked the Lady Vols' first road wins of the conference season, however, Tennessee is 17-4-2 when playing away from home in October over the last five years.
Thursday, the Crimson Tide and Lady Vols will meet for the 10th time in program history. Alabama is coming off its fourth consecutive split after topping South Carolina on Friday and falling to No. 10 Florida on Sunday. The Crimson Tide has earned all four of its conference wins when playing on Friday night. Alabama is out-scoring conference foes 7-1 during the first game of each week, but has been out-scored by 15 goals on Sundays during SEC play. UT has won seven straight against UA.
Tennessee will play its final road match on Sunday, traveling to Auburn. The Tigers are currently second in the SEC West, boasting records of 8-7-2 overall and 4-3-1 in conference play. AU is coming off a 2-0 victory over South Carolina on Sunday and has won three of its last five matches. Auburn takes on Georgia in Athens on Thursday night.
The Lady Vols and Crimson Tide are set to kick off at 7 p.m. on Thursday at Regal Soccer Stadium. The match also will be televised live on FOX Sports South. Sunday's match at Auburn is scheduled for 2 p.m. CT, with live statistics available at utladyvols.com.
UT Sweeps Trip to Mississippi
Tennessee recorded its second weekend sweep of the conference season, topping Ole Miss, 1-0, on Friday before coming from behind to beat Mississippi State, 2-1, on Sunday.
Senior forward Kylee Rossi notched the game winner for the Lady Vols on Friday, heading home sophomore forward Devon Swaim's rebound off the crossbar. The UT defense held Ole Miss leading scorer Jennifer Hance without a shot in the match while recording its fifth shutout of the season.
After allowing the first goal to the Bulldogs on Sunday, the Lady Vols bounced back in the second half with Rossi and Swaim coming through again with goals. The scores marked the fifth match in the last six that Rossi and Swaim have each recorded a point. Rossi's 12th goal of the year ties her career high set last year, while Swaim set a new season high with her third score in 2008. The win also marked the first time this year that Tennessee has won a match when it did not score the first goal.
Back in the Game
Senior midfielder Leslie Vineyard returned to the field for the first time since suffereing a knee injury on Sept. 7. The St. Louis, Mo., native came on in the 25th minute of the Oct. 17 win over Ole Miss, playing 66 minutes and helping UT hold the Rebels' leading scorer, Jennifer Hance, without a shot. Vineyard also saw time in Sunday's win over Mississippi State, notching one shot in her 24 minutes on the pitch.
Despite having its deepest bench in recent history, the sight of Vineyard on the field is a relief for UT. The senior, whose first career goal was the game winner at Chattanooga on Aug. 22, had played at least 60 minutes in each of the first four matches before her injury. Last season, she played every minute of 13 matches, starting 21 of 22 in the midfield.
Catching Up with the Crimson Tide
Alabama enters Thursday's match with a 9-6-1 overall record and a 4-4-0 mark in conference play. The Crimson Tide is coming off its fourth-straight weekend split and sits in a tie for third in the SEC West.
A quartet comprised of two seniors and two sophomores leads the Alabama offense. Seniors Kailey Corken and Jessica Deegan are atop the UA stat sheet, posting 14 and 12 points, respectively. Corken has paced the squad with six goals on the year, while Deegan is tied for the team lead with four assists. Sophomores Victoria Frederick and Brooke Rogers have each tallied 10 points, helping the four players combine for 16 of Alabama's 23 goals during the 2008 campaign. The group has also accounted for seven of the Crimson Tide's nine game winners this year.
Junior keeper Kara Gudmens has played the majority of minutes in goal for Alabama this season. Gudmens has posted 91 saves and comes into the week with 1.40 goals against average and six solo shutouts under her belt. Her three shutouts during conference play tie for the lead in the SEC. With the help of senior center backs Alex Butera and Colleen Posey, Gudmens has guided Alabama to a league-leading eight blank sheets this year.
The Lady Vols and Crimson Tide have met nine times in program history, with UT holding the 7-2 advantage all-time. The Orange and White have taken each of the last seven meetings, including last year's 2-1 victory at Alabama.
Head Coach Todd Bramble is in his first year at Alabama after spending seven seasons at the helm for Clemson. Bramble led the Tigers to seven consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances and faced the Lady Vols in last year's second round. Bramble enters the week with an 89-57-18 record as a women's head coach.
Asking About Auburn
The Tigers are coming off a weekend split with No. 10 Florida and South Carolina and come into the fifth week of SEC play with an 8-7-2 overall record and a 4-3-1 mark in conference. Auburn fell to the Gators, 1-0, last Friday before topping the Gamecocks, 2-0, at home last Sunday.
Freshman midfielder and reigning SEC Freshman of the Week Katy Frierson enters the week tied for the conference lead with eight goals during the SEC slate. She also leads the Tigers with 21 points on the year. Not far behind is junior forward Rebecca Howell whose 18 points on four goals and 10 assists are second on the squad. Joining Frierson and Howell atop the stat sheet are senior forward Kara Kasten and junior midfielder Gabi Rivera who have both notched 11 points on the year. So far, the four have collectively put away 20 goals while dishing out 21 assists. The AU offense is out-scoring opponents 31-19 this season.
Defensively, Auburn boasts the fourth-best scoring defense in the league during conference play, with a 1.16 goals against average. Veteran keeper Allison Whitworth is tied for the conference lead with three shutouts since the league slate began and a 1.20 overall goals against average. Senior defender Jenn Johnson has played in every match since arriving at Auburn and leads a backline that has posted seven total shutouts this year.
Tennessee leads the all-time series with a 7-3-0 record against the Tigers, with its last loss coming in its last trip to Auburn in 2006. The Orange and White posted a 3-0 victory in its last meeting with AU on Oct. 28, 2007 and has won four of the last five matches in the series.
Karen Hoppa is in her 10th season in charge at Auburn, compiling a 111-74-16 record during her time with the Tigers. She has led AU to six NCAA Tournament berths including two straight. All three of the Tigers' victories against Tennessee have come under her watch.
Auburn travels to Georgia to face the Bulldogs on Thursday night at Turner Soccer Complex.
Standing Room Only
With just three matches remaining in the regular season, everyone in the SEC has their eyes on the standings as only the top eight teams in the league earn berths in the conference tournament and a chance to secure the automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.
If the season ended today, the Lady Vols would be the No. 4 seed in the tournament and face No. 5 seed Auburn in the first round. Florida, at 8-0-0 in league play, would be the No. 1 seed, followed by LSU and Georgia at No. 2 and No. 3, respectively. South Carolina would earn the No. 6 seed, while Alabama would hold the tie-breaker to earn the No. 7 seed over eighth-seeded Arkansas.
The final three matches of the year could prove crucial, however, as teams from the top five face off four times in the final two weeks and teams from the current top eight will meet in 12 of the final 18 games of the regular season.
The 2008 SEC Tournament begins Nov. 5 with four first round matches at Orange Beach Soccer Complex in Orange Beach, Ala. The tournament continues through Nov. 9, when the final will be played live on FOX Sports South at 2:30 p.m. CT.