Nov. 12, 2008
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The University of Tennessee women's soccer team will kick off the 2008 NCAA Tournament this Friday, Nov. 14, traveling to Chapel Hill, N.C. to meet Charlotte in the first round. The Lady Vols earned the conference's automatic bid after becoming the lowest seeded team ever to win the SEC Tournament title. No. 1 seed North Carolina and Western Carolina will meet in the other first round matchup at Fetzer Field.
UT enters the NCAA Championships with a 10-10-2 overall record after going 2-0-1 in conference tournament play. The Lady Vols are coming off a 1-0 victory over Georgia in the championship game which marked their first win over the Bulldogs since 2006.
The Orange and White is playing in its eighth NCAA Tournament, earning consecutive selections each year since 2001. Tennessee is 10-6-2 all-time in the tournament and has reached the Sweet 16 five times in the past six years.
The Big Orange boasts the 2008 SEC Tournament Most Valuable Player in senior keeper Jaimel Johnson who posted a 0.62 goals against average and 13 saves over the three matches at the event. Sophomores Tanya Emerson and Julie Edwards and freshman Chelsea Hatcher also earned All-Tournament Team selections after leading the Lady Vols to their fourth SEC Tournament title.
Though she is out with an injury, senior forward Kylee Rossi is Tennessee's career leader in NCAA Tournament points with 11. Junior midfielder Mick Imgram sits second on the list with eight points on two goals and four assists in six tournament matches. In her two trips to the NCAA Tournament, Johnson has helped UT post four shutouts, including back-to-back blankings in last year's first and second rounds.
Charlotte earned its fourth NCAA Tournament berth in program history with its second straight Atlantic 10 tournament title. The 49ers enter the tournament as one of the hottest teams in the country, riding a 14-match winning streak that has seen them out-score their opponents 52-6. Charlotte has advanced to the second round of the tournament just once before, in 1998, when it topped South Carolina before falling to North Carolina.
Western Carolina enters the other first round match with a 13-7-2 record after taking its second Southern Conference Tournament title in program history. The Catamounts topped UNC Greensboro on penalty kicks after playing to a 0-0 draw through overtime. WCU will face No. 1-seeded UNC for the second time ever. The last time the two teams met, the Tar Heels earned a 2-0 victory in Western Carolina's first NCAA Tournament appearance in 2005.
North Carolina is an 18-time NCAA Champion and enters the tournament as one of the four top seeds. The Tar Heels are 19-1-2 overall and took their 19th Atlantic Coast Conference championship on Sunday with a 3-0 win over Virginia Tech. UNC will play host to three other conference champions in the first and second rounds and is looking to get back into the College Cup after getting bounced from the tournament in the Sweet 16 in 2007.
The winners of the two first-round matches will meet in the second round on Sunday, Nov. 16, with the victor advancing to the Sweet 16. Friday's action begins with Western Carolina versus No. 1 North Carolina at 5 p.m., followed by the 49ers and the Lady Vols at 7:30 p.m. Kick off for Sunday's second round is set for 1 p.m. All matches will be held at Fetzer Field in Chapel Hill, N.C. Live statistics will be available at utladyvols.com.
Tales from the Tournament
The Orange and White will make its fourth trip to Chapel Hill, N.C., in the NCAA Tournament and its second for the opening rounds. The last time the Lady Vols traveled to UNC in the tournament, the Tar Heels posted a 6-2 victory in the 2006 Sweet 16. In its only first round match at Fetzer Field in 2001, Tennessee played through four overtime periods to a 1-1 draw with Duke before falling on penalties, 4-2.
The Big Orange comes into the 2008 first round with a 6-0-1 record in the initial match of the tournament. Last year, Tennessee hosted Furman, topping the Lady Paladins, 2-0, to advance to a second round matchup with Clemson. After playing to a scoreless draw with the Tigers, the Lady Vols got a game winner in double overtime from Kylee Rossi to move on to the Sweet 16. UT traveled cross-country to face No. 2 Portland, falling 3-0 to the Pilots. In the loss, keeper Jaimel Johnson set a new program NCAA Tournament record with 12 saves.
All-time the Orange and White has posted nine shutouts in the NCAA Tournament, while scoring two or more goals in seven matches. UT has played overtime in the tournament three times, with two of those matches being decided on penalties.
Two current Lady Vols are among the program's all-time leading scorers in NCAA Tournament play. Senior forward Kylee Rossi is Tennessee's career tournament points and goals leader with 11 and four, respectively. Meanwhile, junior midfielder Mick Imgram has posted two goals and four assists in tournament play in her first two years in the Orange and White. Last year, Rossi scored two of the Lady Vols' three goals in the tournament, while Imgram notched the other.
Figuring Out the 49ers
Charlotte comes into the 2008 NCAA Tournament with a 17-3-1 overall record and is riding a 14-match winning streak that began on Sept. 21. During that span, the 49ers went 11-0 in Atlantic 10 play, won the regular season and conference tournament titles and outscored its opponents 52-6. Charlotte is making its fourth appearance in the NCAA Tournament and has a record of 1-2-0 all-time in the event.
The 49er offense ranks fifth in NCAA Division I, averaging 3.19 goals per game. Junior midfielder Hailey Beam, sophomore forward Whitney Weinraub and sophomore midfielder Sam Huecker have combined to record half of Charlotte's points this season, posting 35 goals and 35 assists. Beam leads the squad with 17 goals and 47 points on the year, ranking seventh in the nation in points per game. Beam has notched five game winners this year, while Weinraub and freshmen forwards Oni Bernard and Jonna Handra have posted three match winners apiece. The 49ers had seven All-Atlantic 10 selections this season and saw Weinraub named Offensive Player of the Year and Beam earn Midfielder of the Year honors.
Junior goalkeeper Lauren Brown has played a majority of the minutes between the pipes for Charlotte this season. Her 0.89 goals against average ranked fifth in the A-10, while her seven shutouts were second-most in the conference. Brown has posted a record of 17-2-1 while allowing just 17 goals this year.
Tennessee and Charlotte have met just once before. The Lady Vols posted a 3-0 victory over the 49ers in the First Tennessee Classic on Sept. 14, 2003. Last year, Charlotte traveled to Knoxville for the NCAA Tournament but fell in the first round to Clemson.
UT Head Coach Angela Kelly will face off against fellow UNC alum Jon Lipsitz who is in his fourth season at the helm for Charlotte. During his time with the 49ers, Lipsitz has led the squad to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances and A-10 titles, compiling a record of 57-22-4.
The Tournament Field
The 2008 tournament field features Notre Dame, North Carolina, UCLA and Stanford as No. 1 seeds. No. 2 national seeds include Florida State, Portland, Florida and Virginia, while Boston College, Wake Forest, Duke and Texas A&M each earned a No. 3 seeding. Colorado, Oklahoma State, Missouri and defending national champion USC round out the top 16 teams as No. 4 seeds.
UT is one of six Southeastern Conference teams in the 2008 NCAA Tournament field, joining Florida, LSU, Auburn, Georgia and South Carolina. Three SEC squads will play in the state of North Carolina for the first and second rounds, with Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina playing at ACC host sites. The Bulldogs will take on James Madison at Wake Forest, while the Gamecocks will face William & Mary at Duke. Both Florida and Auburn will host the opening rounds and LSU will travel to Texas A&M to take on Washington.
The Lady Vols have played 13 matches this season against NCAA Tournament teams. UT has faced 10 invited squads including No. 1-seeded North Carolina and No. 2 Florida. The Orange and White has posted a 5-7-1 record this season against those teams, going 2-0-1 against tournament teams in last week's SEC Championship run.
Tennessee Captures SEC Tournament Title
Tennessee became the lowest seeded team to ever win the SEC Tournament Championship last week after downing fourth-seeded Georgia, 1-0, on Sunday afternoon in Orange Beach, Ala. The sixth-seeded Lady Vols got the only goal they needed from sophomore midfielder Julie Edwards in the 51st minute of the title game. Edwards one-timed a cross from sophomore midfielder Tanya Emerson past Georgia keeper Michelle Betos for the score. Senior keeper Jaimel Johnson made four saves to keep the Bulldogs out of the back of the net and record her fifth shutout of the season.
Johnson earned the SEC Tournament Most Valuable Player Award after posting a 0.62 goals against average and 13 saves on the week along with two penalty kick stops against LSU. Joining Johnson on the All-Tournament Team were Edwards, sophomore midfielder Tanya Emerson whose four points in the tournament led UT, and freshman midfielder Chelsea Hatcher who paced the squad with 14 shots on the week.
Road to the SEC Championship Game
Sixth-seeded Tennessee worked hard to earn its spot in the SEC Tournament final. First, the Lady Vols tackled third-seeded Auburn before battling with No. 2 LSU in the Nov. 7 semifinal.
Meeting Auburn for the second time in two weeks, the Orange and White got redemption after falling to the Tigers in the regular season, with a 2-1 victory on Nov. 5. UT got on the board just two minutes into the match when sophomore midfielder Devon Swaim played a ball into the slot where sophomore forward Tanya Emerson connected with a one-timer for the early 1-0 lead. Junior forward Mick Imgram scored the eventual game winner for the Lady Vols in the 57th minute. The Clifton, Va., native blasted a rocket of a shot to the far post from 20 yards out on the right side, finding the back of the net for the 2-0 lead. Though the Tigers converted on a penalty in the 62nd minute, UT held on to advance to its first semifinal since 2006.
Awaiting the Orange and White in the semifinal was LSU. Though Tennessee topped the Tigers 2-1 during the regular season, LSU had captured a share of the SEC West crown and won seven of nine matches since that match.
The Lady Vols scored first again, as Emerson teamed up with sophomore defender Grace Cuenin to find the back of the net in the 20th minute. Emerson's corner found Cuenin in the box where she poked in a shot past LSU keeper Mo Isom who had come off her line on the corner kick. The goal was the first of Cuenin's career and marked the second straight match in which Emerson recorded a point. Both teams battled back and forth until the Tigers scored the equalizer in the 54th minute. From there the defenses held strong, as the two squads played to a 1-1 draw through 110 minutes.
The subsequent penalty kick shootout saw Tennessee senior keeper Jaimel Johnson stop two LSU shots, while the Lady Vols converted on four of five to advance, 4-2. The match marked the sixth that went to extra time for UT at the SEC Tournament and the thid time the Lady Vols have advanced in the tournament on penalty kicks.
Out of the Woodworks
With senior forward and four-time team leading scorer Kylee Rossi out with an injury, the Lady Vols have needed some new faces to step up on offense to get the job done. Step up they have, as sophomores Tanya Emerson, Grace Cuenin, Julie Edwards and Devon Swaim, and junior Mick Imgram proved in the SEC Tournament.
After going nine matches without a goal, Imgram provided the game winner in the Nov. 5 win over Auburn. Playing at forward, Imgram created havoc in the Tiger backline throughout the match, and beat keeper Allison Whitworth from 20 yards for the score.
Playing at both forward and midfield, Emerson has been on fire of late. Despite finishing 2007 as the Lady Vols' fourth-leading scorer, Emerson had yet to notch a point, until Nov. 5. Needless to say, Emerson has picked a fantastic time to step up, as she posted a goal and two assists during the tournament, earning all-tournament team honors.
With her goal in the Nov. 7 semifinal draw with LSU, Cuenin may have jump started the final step in her transformation from rarely-used walk-on to legitimate center back for Tennessee. After playing in just seven matches last season as a midfielder, Cuenin has worked to earn a spot as one of UT's starting center backs where she has made numerous plays to keep opponents off the scorebard this year. As a target in the air on corner kicks, Cuenin has started to come into her own in the box and demsontrated that fact with her goal against the Tigers.
As Tennessee's second-leading scorer, Swaim may not have come out of nowhere, but she has definitely elevated her play ever since the start of the conference season. Swaim has recorded at least one point in six of the last 11 matches, posting three goals and four assists during that span.
Finally, Edwards' continuously improving performance led to Tennessee's game winner in the SEC Tournament final, where the Glenmoore, Pa., native one-timed an Emerson pass for her second goal of the season. Edwards was a force in the midfield throughout the event earning her a spot on the all-tournament team.