The Vanderbilt women’s soccer team came back from behind for an emphatic 4-1 win over the Ole Miss Rebels in their last home game of the season. This was the biggest fan turnout so far in the season as goal scorer Claire Anderson, team captain Kacy Scarpa and Sasha Gray were honored on senior day with their numbers painted on the side of the field.
This was a game of two halves, with honors even in the first period before the Commodores exploded for three goals in the second. Coach Darren Ambrose started with a familiar lineup that featured Scarpa at center back, a formula used since a 2-2 draw vs. Kentucky.
“We needed the senior influence and the ability to keep the ball [at the back],” Ambrose said.
The first half hour of the game saw both teams trying to establish themselves, enjoying spells of possession and attack. The Commodores looked the more dangerous team in the first 15 minutes, with no real threat from the Rebels, who were unable to enjoy any consistent possession. This was due to the physically aggressive tackling and pressing by Vanderbilt players as soon as the opposition had the ball. Much of Vanderbilt’s attack in the first half came down the right wing, with redshirt junior Danae O’Halloran overlapping and crossing the ball.
Following the substitution bringing Gabby Little onto the field with half an hour left in the period, Ole Miss started growing into the game and pinning the Dores back in their own half, partly due to some sloppy passes in the back line. Their pressure paid off as they won a free kick just outside the penalty area and slightly to the right. Junior Bella Fiorenzo sent a ball that seemed to stay in the air for an eternity, looping over keeper Lauren Demarchi for an Ole Miss goal. Demarchi will be disappointed not to deal with it, but it was a difficult ball to judge — one of those you couldn’t be sure if it was a cross or a shot.
After conceding, Ambrose brought in Jackie Welch in support of lone striker Kaylann Boyd, noticing his team was trying to send long balls over the Rebels’ back line with little success.
“We knew how to get behind them but we weren’t doing it very well. With the two forwards, it allowed us to generate a bit more,” Ambrose said of the change in system.
The change paid off right away as the Commodores got their equalizer within five minutes of conceding through substitute Sydney O’Donnell. Lydia Simmons, who had been closely marked throughout the game, played a ball down the left, with O’Donnell latching onto it and placing the ball in the net from a difficult angle. The goal reinvigorated the Commodores, who ended the half on a stronger note than their opponents.
The second half was a different story as Vanderbilt got seven shots on goal to Ole Miss’ four and converted three of them into goals. The first came six minutes into the period as Simmons played a ball to put through Anderson, who ran into the box unmarked and shot the ball across into the net. This was the “icing on the cake,” Anderson said, on the senior’s final home game at Vanderbilt on a “bitter-sweet” senior day.
The third Commodore goal came from the right side as Hannon Eberts managed to receive a through ball onside and bomb forward before putting a ball across the box for a straightforward finish by Welch.
A great performance to bounce back from the tough loss against South Carolina on Thursday was capped off by another goal. This time, Eberts was on the receiving end of a ball played into the box by O’Donnell after a steal in the opposition’s half. Boyd let it run brilliantly, leaving Eberts one-on-one with the keeper for a simple finish in front of goal.
Fueled by erroneous passing from Vanderbilt, perhaps due to the energy expended in Thursday’s overtime loss, the Rebels did create a few chances in the half, forcing Demarchi to make three saves; but they were few and far between. In the end, the Commodores pushed on to close the game out in style in preparation for the SEC tournament in Orange Beach, Alabama, in a week’s time.