The Vanderbilt women’s soccer team overcame its recent offensive struggles against cross-town rival Lipscomb, scoring three goals in the wild second half of Sunday night’s 3-1 victory.
Freshman defender Olivia Simmons notched two key assists for the Commodores, both coming from long-range throws into the box, resulting in back-to-back goals in the 71st and 72nd minutes to take the lead. The two quick scores were Vanderbilt’s first second-half goals of the season.
Both teams were hampered by offensive struggles in the first half. The Commodores had difficulty maintaining possession early and struggled to create meaningful opportunities in the final third of the field.
Despite having few scoring opportunities in the first half, Lipscomb struck first in the 18th minute, with senior Jade Abarca scoring on a breakaway to give the Bisons the early lead. Midfielder Jordan Walsh set Abarca up with a one-on-one with Vanderbilt goalkeeper Kaitlyn Fahrner on a perfectly-placed through ball into the box. The goal was one of only three first-half shots for the Bisons.
“In the first half, I think, tactically, we got it wrong,” Vanderbilt head coach Darren Ambrose said. “After the first fifteen minutes, we changed, but it was too late; they’d scored. First fifteen minutes they just took advantage of us, and I don’t think we were really well-prepared for that.”
The Lady Bisons held onto the lead through a mostly-uneventful first half. Early in the second period, Vanderbilt began to control possession and create opportunities but could not capitalize, always seemingly one pass or one touch away from a score.
This changed in the final 20 minutes, with Olivia Simmons’s back-to-back throw-in assists thrusting open the floodgates of offense for the Commodores. The first goal was tapped into the back of the net by midfielder Lydia Simmons amidst confusion in front of the goal. Stephanie Amack headed in the second goal just one minute later.
The two scores illustrated Coach Ambrose’s emphasis on set pieces in practice.
“Set pieces change games, and games are often won or lost by them,” Ambrose said. “It’s a chance to put the ball inside the 18-yard box and that’s where goals are scored. So whether you have to serve it with your feet, from a corner, from a free kick, or you pass the ball into that space or you throw it in, the question is: Can you get on the end of it? And we’re starting to very regularly now.”
Following the two scores, the Commodores dominated possession, with the ball remaining mostly on Lipscomb’s half. A series of late opportunities for Lipscomb kept it interesting until the end, however. The closest of these came with just under seven minutes to go when Lipscomb midfielder Brooke Brenner nailed the crossbar from nearly 30 yards out.
But, when Lipscomb defender Ellen Lundy’s was ejected following a second yellow card in the 82nd minute, the Bisons were left with only ten on the field, and the Commodores took advantage.
With just over two minutes remaining, Leila Azari drove the ball quickly into the box before cleverly releasing a pass across the top of the six-yard box to Jackie Welch, who was making the run into the far post. Welch drilled the insurance goal into the back of the net, sealing the victory for the Commodores.
“Leila Azari was the player of the game for us,” Ambrose said. “I think she is one of the most dangerous 1 vs. 1 players on the team. She also really has great vision, and that showed at the end.”
With this week off, the Commodores will be back in action to open SEC play on Sep. 17 at LSU.