Vanderbilt Soccer rolling through non-conference play, seeking sixth-straight win

Vanderbilt+Soccer%27s+Nia+Dorsey+sends+a+freekick+into+the+box+against+North+Alabama.+Photo+by+Mattigan+Kelly

Vanderbilt Soccer's Nia Dorsey sends a freekick into the box against North Alabama. Photo by Mattigan Kelly

Will Fritzler, Assistant Opinion Editor

The Vanderbilt women’s soccer team has become used to beating the odds.

Last season in 2017, the Commodores were picked by the 14 head coaches in the Southeastern Conference (S.E.C.) to finish eighth in the conference. Instead, Vanderbilt finished tied for fourth overall, sporting a conference record of 6-3-1, and won its first N.C.A.A. tournament game since 1998, a 2-0 victory over the fourth-seeded Ohio State Buckeyes.

Entering this season, the story was similar: the annual preseason coaches’ poll placed Vanderbilt to finish ninth of 14 teams in 2018, perhaps due to the loss of several pivotal players from 2017 like Simone Charley, Lydia Simmons, and Christina de Zeeuw. 

But three weeks into their 2018 campaign, the team has shown no signs of letting up after its strong 2017 showing.

Vanderbilt has won five straight games, most recently a 4-0 home victory over North Alabama on Sep. 2 and including prior wins over Saint Louis, Ohio, Miami, and Jacksonville. The streak pushed the team’s overall record to 5-1-0, with the lone loss coming to 10th-ranked Florida State 1-0 in the season opener in Tallahassee. A win on Thursday night over Western Kentucky, the Commodores’ final non-conference home opponent of the season, would mark their longest win streak since 2005 when they won 11 straight.

Over the five-game stretch, the Commodores have outscored opponents 13-2, outshot opponents 74-27, and have been forced into 11 saves compared to forcing opponents into 27. In the same stretch last year, Vanderbilt scored just five goals while letting in six.

Vanderbilt owes much of its early success to redshirt freshman Haley Hopkins and her four goals, which is tied for fifth among SEC players and leads the team. Hopkins is also tied for the conference lead with three game-winning goals, including both opening goals in the team’s most recent two games.

“There are moments when you don’t need to tell Haley what to do with the ball,” head coach Darren Ambrose said after the win over Saint Louis on Friday. “Haley knows. When you put her in a position around the 18-yard box, she’s got one thought and that is ‘how can I create a shot for myself.'”

“She’s a great team player too. She wants to involve her teammates, and I think there’s starting to be some chemistry between her and the other players.”

As the Commodores go for their sixth straight win on Thursday, that chemistry of theirs presents an exciting storyline moving into SEC play and the season ahead. 

Kickoff is at 7 PM on Thursday at the Vanderbilt Soccer Complex. It’s Salute to Service Night, and the Commodores will be honoring soldiers from Fort Campbell and other first responders in the area. Patriotic Star V t-shirts will be distributed to the first 200 fans. If you can’t make it to the stadium, you can listen in on VandyRadio.com or on the VandyRadio app.