Vanderbilt Soccer prepared to build on stellar 2017 campaign


Photo by Brent Szklaruk

Betsy Goodfriend, Senior Writer

Coming off their first NCAA tournament berth since 2006, Vanderbilt Women’s Soccer has plenty of expectations for 2018.

“It’s not about repeating [2017’s historic season],” head coach Darren Ambrose said. “It’s about holding the standards the same. We’ve set a standard of performance that the younger players have to reach for. We don’t want to drop those standards and expectations.”

Last season, Vanderbilt shocked fourth-seeded Ohio State in the NCAA Tournament in Columbus with a late goal from Stephanie Amack. It was Vanderbilt’s first NCAA Tournament win since 1998. Santa Clara eliminated the Commodores in the second round with a 3-1 win.

Although Amack has graduated, along with some of the best to suit up for the Commodores in Simone Charley, Cristina De Zeeuw and Lydia Simmons, plenty of key players are back this season. Junior midfielder Grace Jackson almost never left the field last season, and sophomore defender Myra Konte looks to build off a season in which she was voted to the SEC All-Freshman team. Sophomore forward Leila Azari started 20 games last season as well.

With only two seniors and a handful of juniors, the squad is young, but Ambrose is not worried one bit about his underclassmen.

“The young players are strong, they’re athletic, they’re fast,” said Ambrose.

A few freshman in particular have stood out to Ambrose and his staff. He stressed that he will always put the best players on their field, no matter their experience. Defender Ella Shamburger has played nearly all of the team’s two preseason matches and two road games. Peyton Cutshall, Raegan Kelly, and Karissa King have all been impressive.

Ambrose also plans to continue rotating junior goalkeepers Taiana Tolleson and Lauren DeMarchi throughout the season.

“It’s really difficult to split the two right now,” he said. “It’s an incredible healthy battle. They’re good kids, and they support each other. I think it’s really a model for a lot of other players on our team.”

Both goalkeepers have played well in the first two games. Tolleson allowed just one goal to a top-ranked Florida State team, and DeMarchi has already recorded six saves.

Vanderbilt began the season on the road at No.10 Florida State. The Commodores fought hard, but lost a tough 1-0 match.

The squad traveled to Jacksonville University a few days later and earned a 3-0 victory. Madison Elwell, Olivia Simmons, and Kaylann Boyd each found the back of the net. Azari assisted on Simmons’ and Boyd’s goals.

Vanderbilt’s home opener against Miami is tonight at 7:30 PM. Ambrose emphasized the importance of having students and fans at the games.

“We want the support of the school, and we want to make the school proud,” he said. “You’re not going to come watch people play half-hearted. You’re going to watch women compete at one of the highest levels in the country.”