Vanderbilt Soccer earns 2-1 win over Miami with pair of late goals


Hunter Long

Myra Konte scores the equalizer against Miami on Friday August 14, 2018. (Photo by Hunter Long)

Elias Ukule

The Vanderbilt Women’s Soccer team welcomed the Miami Hurricanes in their home opener of the Music City Invitational and pulled out an impressive 2-1 win after coming back from being one down at halftime.

Myra Konte equalized the match with an 80th-minute goal and Haley Hopkins netted the winner eight minutes later.

It was anything but a dream start for the Commodores, who conceded just three minutes in as Miami won the ball back in the midfield and set up a fast break for first year forward Gudrun Haralz to finish for the opening goal.

Vanderbilt sought an immediate response after two cutbacks from sophomores Madison Elwell and Hopkins set up a shot for Kaylann Boyd, who forced the opposing goalkeeper to make a low stop. Spearheaded by Hopkins’ direct play, the Commodores kept pushing for the equalizer.

Hopkins first fired a shot over the bar before being played through courtesy of a well-weighted ball from sophomore Leila Azari but was forced wide by the defense and only managed to hit the side-netting.

Myra Konte scores the equalizer against Miami on Friday August 14, 2018. (Photo by Hunter Long)

Minutes later, Azari was once again close to being provider when she played a give-and-go on the wing. She continued on a marauding run into the box that set up Grace Jackson’s shot that forced red-shirt senior goalie Phallon Tullis-Joyce into an athletic save to keep the ball from going into the top corner.

For all the dominance from the Commodores after going down, there were nervy moments at the back too. Confusion between goalkeeper Lauren Demarchi and freshman defender Ella Shamburger almost gifted the ball to the opposition at the edge of the penalty box.

With the Vanderbilt players tiring after pressing for the equalizer, the Hurricanes were able to pin them back more toward the end of the first half. Miami sophomore forward Tia Dupont was a thorn in the side of Azari and junior Nia Dorsey down the left flank.

It was Lauren Markwith down the right wing who nearly created a second goal for Miami late in the half as she cut back a ball for forward Mallory Olsson to shoot and force Demarchi into a tough save. Off the ensuing corner, a poor clearance by Paola Ellis almost let in Rachel Sorkenn for a great chance, but she missed the target.

Even being 1-0 up at half, Miami was the more dangerous team in the closing moments of the first half after withstanding the Vanderbilt barrage after the opening goal.

Vanderbilt Head Coach Darren Ambrose sent his team out of the locker room with a more attacking 3-4-3 formation to find a way back into the match in the second half.

“We talk about never being married to one system,” said Ambrose. “We scored because we changed systems, because we were playing catchup. It’s an aggressive high-risk, high-reward [system].”

However, it was the Hurricanes who made the brighter start to the final 45 minutes. A poor clearance from Dorsey allowed a shot on goal by midfielder Lexi Castellano, forcing junior Taiana Tolleson into her first save since coming in goal at the half.

Vanderbilt wins its season openor against Miami on Friday August 14, 2018. (Photo by Hunter Long)

The Commodores regained the momentum and twice fired over the crossbar as the second half wore on. The first was a shot by Boyd after the ball bounced around in the box. Later, an individual effort by Hopkins saw her shot sail over the bar.

Vanderbilt had most of the possession in the second frame but could not find that decisive pass in the final third. Tellingly, it was a set piece that finally unlocked the organized Miami defense with just ten minutes left on the clock.

After producing numerous assists last season from her long throw, substitute Olivia Simmons launched one into the box and it was met by fellow sophomore Konte for the equalizer at the back post.

Ambrose spoke highly of Simmons, who he described as “a winner.”

“She has got strengths that go far beyond the technical or tactical,” he said. “And as a coach, I would take 20 of those kids.”

Although goal scorer Konte had to come off with an injury soon thereafter, Simmons tallied another assist when she crossed a ball for a Hopkins header for the match-winner with just two minutes remaining.

Haley Hopkins scores the go-ahead goal against Miami on Friday August 14, 2018. (Photo by Hunter Long)

Hopkins, who spent last season recovering from an injury, was pleased to bag the winning goal.

“It felt really good,” Hopkins said. “This entire season our team has really embodied the word ‘fight.’”

The Commodores held on to pull off a comeback win that showcased mental fortitude not normally found in such a young squad. Ambrose highlighted this after the match.

“Tonight they gained a little bit of a realization that if we really decide to compete, not just try and play soccer, but compete, they’re a dangerous team,” he said.

After a quick turnaround, the Commodores play Ohio on Sunday at 2:30 pm. Of the upcoming match, Ambrose said, “this is a test of maturity and understanding. We can’t celebrate this one.”