The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt Soccer downs Saint Louis 2-0 in fourth straight win

Photo by Emma Stapleton

The Vanderbilt Women’s Soccer team defeated the Saint Louis Billikens 2-0 on Friday night, continuing their strong start to the season and proving they are worth fans’ attention and excitement.

Saint Louis controlled the time of possession and pace in the first half, keeping Vanderbilt on its heels. However, Vanderbilt still found multiple scoring opportunities, taking the lead behind Haley Hopkins’ breakaway goal in the 23rd minute, where she dribbled down the middle ahead of the nearest defender and drove the ball between the legs of the sliding goalkeeper.

Coach Darren Ambrose pointed to the goal as an example of one of the strategic keys of the game.

“We talked about in this game that our forwards would have to be willing to press their center backs in possession and that’s exactly how she scored,” he said.

Defensively, Vanderbilt’s backline allowed Saint Louis attackers to get behind them on multiple occasions, but got the clearances when they needed them. Keeper Lauren Demarchi also bailed out the defense with brilliant plays on multiple occasions, collecting three saves in one half of work.

Vanderbilt came out looking dominant in the second half, pressuring Saint Louis with ease, leading to an exceptional goal in the 50th minute by Kaylann Boyd on a great ball from Caroline Saltmarsh into the box.

Saltmarsh, standing outside the box on the left side, sent the ball in to Boyd who got behind her defender, then got the ball back off a diving punch by Saint Louis’ keeper and put the ball into the back of the net with her left foot.

After going up 2-0, Vanderbilt settled into a more defensive position for the next 20 minutes or so, keeping the Billikens scoreless. Saint Louis threatened momentarily when they found a 2-on-1 in the box, forcing keeper Taiana Tolleson out of position and setting up an open path for a Saint Louis attacker, but freshman defender Ella Shamburger swooped in with a burst of speed to clear the ball off the line.

In the final twenty minutes, Vanderbilt finished strong with an attacking mentality. Hopkins led the way with multiple touches inside the box, but was unable to find the back of the net despite dazzling with her feet and energy, and Hannon Eberts tallied two shots on goal.

After the game, Hopkins talked about what was running through her mind during her first goal.

“In the moment I really just had no idea really,” she said. “I was just kind of dribbling to goal. After that my keeper was like ‘Haley you were just drifting way too off to the side on that one, you might next time try to go straight on.’”

Ambrose discussed the team needing to settle down going into the second half.

“First half we just panicked, we came out and we were 100 miles per hour,” he said. “We said don’t panic and let’s play around and let’s go in to out, let’s switch the ball, and that’s what started to happen.”

It was evident from the game the potential of this team in their ability to get out on the attack and strike quickly, as well as attack the ball defensively, but also their rough edges in getting into rhythm and setting the tone.

Leila Azari remained composed throughout the game as the beating heart of the team, exemplifying what Ambrose spoke about in playing with patience. Azari shined on the attack, dancing past Saint Louis defenders multiple times looking incredibly light on her feet and clean with her touches and passes.

“I think Leila’s an unsung hero of this team.” Coach Ambrose praised. “She keeps possession of the ball. She’s got very high soccer IQ and high technical skill.”

In what was a “gutsy” performance and “physical battle”, as described by Ambrose, the team exemplified a physical spirit and a mindset of growth, improving as the game went on.

The Commodores return to action on Sunday against North Alabama at 1pm at the Vanderbilt Soccer Complex. That game will be broadcast live on and on the VandyRadio app. 

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