The Vanderbilt Commodores prevailed over the Missouri Tigers 5-3 on Friday to maintain their unbeaten run in conference play.
The high scoring affair registered more goals than the four other SEC games on Friday combined.
An early Missouri goal was quickly canceled out by three goals by the Commodores in the first half before a second half in which both teams scored a pair. Olivia Simmons bagged her second and third goals of the season, one in each half, while Simone Charley, Jackie Welch and Gabriel Rademaker also added their names to the scoresheet.
Vanderbilt returned to Nashville following a 2-1 win in Georgia and with an unbeaten record in SEC play while the Tigers came off two consecutive defeats, 3-1 to Mississippi State and 5-1 against Texas A&M.
The game did not start to form as a foul by senior defender Cristina De Zeeuw conceded a free kick some 28 yards out. Madison Lewis drove a low ball that slid under a diving Taiana Tolleson, who did not react quickly enough, and into goal.
Missouri continued launching long aerial balls for their forwards to bring down, testing the composure of Vanderbilt’s backline.
Later, freshman Leila Azari, who created the lion’s share of chances in the opening 20 minutes, slipped Charley through, and the Alabama native was forced slightly wide. She cut the ball back to the middle of the box where Olivia Simmons, who came in as a substitute seconds ago, was waiting to coolly slot the ball into the corner of the net for the equalizer.
Missouri tried to respond as Tolleson’s unconvincing clearance fell to Allie Hess, who released a fierce shot from well outside the penalty area that sailed just over the bar.
It was all Vanderbilt after that, with the Tigers offering very little going forward.
Charley was played through on the right flank and sent an inviting cross met by the head of Jackie Welch for a Commodores lead with 15 minutes left to play in the half.
Eight minutes later, midfielder Grace Jackson played a slicing through ball to find Rademaker, who snuck past the Missouri defense and beat the onrushing Dossey to fire the ball into the net and give her team a 3-1 lead going into halftime.
Missouri started the second half reinvigorated, piling the pressure on and pressing high up the pitch, with even their goalkeeper well off her line and out of the penalty box.
The Tigers made the pressure count as Jessica Johnson received the ball at the edge of the box and lifted the ball over Tolleson and into goal.
Only two minutes later, Sarah Luebbert followed up with a goal to pull the game level. Luebbert got on the end of her own rebound, parried out by Tolleson, to score in an empty net.
Conceding two goals in the space of two minutes injected urgency into Vanderbilt’s play. A counter attack that started with Myra Konte winning the ball in her own half reached Charley, who sent Hannon Eberts running down the right and got it back for a point blank header that was blocked.
The Commodores wouldn’t be denied in their next counter attack as a ball won by Stephanie Amack found its way to Azari, who brilliantly took on her defender down the line before sending the ball across into the box. Charley, who had set up the two previous goals, would get one herself as she tapped it into the net to restore Vanderbilt’s lead.
The Commodores pushed on for an insurance goal and they would get it with 10 minutes left to play. Olivia Simmons bombed forward after turning her marker and sent the ball between the goalkeeper’s legs to get the brace and ensure a Vanderbilt victory.
Although the free scoring form of the players is a positive, Vanderbilt head coach Darren Ambrose will be concerned with the defensive frailty to give up three goals, two at the start of the second half.
Ambrose takes pride in his team’s defense, which shut out Arkansas, the league’s second-highest scoring team, a week ago to earn a scoreless draw. In fact, the Commodores had only conceded goals twice in their last five games and only once in their three prior SEC games.
A key reason for the defensive stability is the partnership between De Zeeuw, a senior, and Amack, a graduate student, who bring much-needed experience at the heart of the defense. Although Konte is only a freshman, her emergence as an energetic full back has also strengthened the backline.
The combination of new players and upperclassmen has also been effective on the other end. The freshmen have been making and scoring goals, with Rebecca Rossett’s two goals and two assists, Olivia Simmons’ three goals and two assists, and Azari’s two assists all helping the team going forward. Redshirt sophomore Jackie Welch has three goals to her name as well.
However, Simone Charley is undoubtedly the leader of the line, sitting jointly atop the team in goals for the team with three and top for assists with four. Charley has transformed her game this season, evolving from a goalscorer to a creator as well.
Vanderbilt remains undefeated in SEC play with ten points, good enough for second place in the league early on in conference play. The team has already earned three wins against SEC opponents after winning five all of last season.
Up next for the Commodores is a trip to Lexington, Kentucky for a battle against the Wildcats on Thursday at 6:30 pm, before a slate of tricky fixtures as they play consecutive games against four SEC teams ranked in the top 20 in the country.