The Vanderbilt soccer team came off its momentum from Thursday night’s 4-0 win against Murray State to net another victory, this time over the University of San Francisco Sunday. The Dons opened the scoring, but the Commodores immediately came back from behind to put the final score at 2-1 thanks to back-to-back goals from up and coming freshman Grace Jackson.
Vanderbilt started out the half possessing and pushing forward, having a close shot 10 minutes in from sophomore Brook Colangelo that was punched away for a corner. San Francisco’s back line managed to deal with the danger well, pushing Vandy back to the half to regroup.
Two minutes later, after mounting pressure from the away side, freshman Izzie Lueken had a long shot from the middle third that was easy for Vanderbilt keeper Kaitlyn Fahrner to catch.
It proved far too easy at times for USF’s midfield to slot it through the Vandy defence, and early in, Lueken released midfielder Jessica Nakae from across the pitch. Nakae took it down the line and crossed it in, where Amanda Whittle was waiting to finish it cleanly on the ground in the back of the net. USF led 1-0 in the 15th minute.
Almost immediately, Commodore freshman Grace Jackson retaliated with a screamer from the left that ricocheted off of the far post into the goal to level the score once more. Minutes later, Jackson was at it again with a diving header off of senior teammate Sasha Gray’s cross to put Vandy ahead early on.
Despite the scoreline, however, there were times when Vanderbilt did not seem to dominate the game. The ‘Dores were excellent at winning balls out of the air but had moments in which they would lose the ball on the ground to the tenacious USF midfield.
The side had the skill to regain possession, but the pressure that USF was providing looked a little too dangerous on occasion, leading to some close calls.
The goalscorer Whittle edged past a defender and took the ball into the final third before bending it a little too high over the bar, causing some home fans to bite their fingernails in the stands. Two minutes later, junior Sonja Giraud had a shot that Fahrner tipped over the crossbar, leading to a USF corner that, were it not for some whiffed balls and the clearance from Kacy Scarpa, could have been the equalizer.
The closest USF got to evening the score was in the 34th minute when Fahrner came out of the goal to first block Giraud’s wide-open shot before punching away Micaela Mercado’s rebound in a brilliant display of shot-stopping prowess. There were a few instances after that in which the Dons were able to slot it past the defense, but they could never finish.
The Commodores encountered the same struggle after Jackson’s wondergoals, as Hannon Eberts managed to get inside a defender and fed it to fellow freshman Kaylann Boyd, who, facing a one-on-one with the goalkeeper, failed to hit the target.
Boyd had some great shots in the second half, however, first heading Sydney O’Donnell’s beautifully curved cross over the goal before heading another cross, this time from the fancy feet of Lydia Simmons, on frame.
Despite a spell in which the Commodores adjusted to a change in formation by the Dons, they looked dominant in possession, keeping the ball in their opponents’ half for long spells of time. Midfielders Simmons, Jackson, and Caroline Saltmarsh linked up well in the midfield, feeding the ball to partnerships Jackie Welch and Carley Bogan for part of the half and Welch and Boyd for another.
At one point, Simmons challenged goalkeeper Makayla Presgrave, forcing her to slide out and causing a bit of a scramble in front of goal while the keeper was on the ground. At this late stage of the game, the ‘Dores seemed to be getting tired, but not nearly as tired and overheated as the Dons.
With three minutes to go, Boyd, who was one-on-one with a defender in the box, took a fall, prompting concern and calls for a penalty while the referee commanded her to play on. The referee likely made the correct decision, but this meant that goal-hungry Boyd would not get another chance to score that day.
Despite the positive scoreline, Coach Darren Ambrose stressed after the game the need for improvement in the final third. The Commodores create a lot of chances, but not all of them were capitalized upon, and the players that attempt to take those shots are too often off frame for his liking. This problem was something they “had talked about,” he said, indicating that there may be improvement or even more experimentation up top in games to follow.
Ambrose also noted that the women could work on keeping up the pressure consistently against opposing teams, again stressing how doing so could help the midfield spearheaded by Jackson create more chances. Ambrose stated that he hopes the creativity in the midfield will help the team be “sharper in the final third,” once again hitting the importance of finishing goalscoring attempts.