History in the Making: How practice has made perfect for the Commodores


Hunter Long

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

Simon Gibbs, Senior Writer

Vanderbilt Soccer is just one win away from making history.

On Sunday, they face the Georgia Bulldogs with the opportunity to tie the program record for longest win streak. They last won 11 games in the 2005 season.

A win makes it 11 straight. 11 straight games without showing a sign of weakness.

Surely, that’s something to be proud of.

When asked about the implications of breaking this franchise record, head coach Darren Ambrose laughed.

“I haven’t even thought about that until you asked the question,” he said. “To be perfectly honest with you, it’s not something that even crosses our minds. We just think to myself, let’s go beat Georgia so we can be 11-1. Let’s go beat Georgia so we can be 4-0 [in the SEC] because that is what we are supposed to do.

Ambrose and his Commodores showed no complacency. This week, they were ranked 25th in the nation by the United States Soccer coaches poll. The last time they cracked the top-25 was the 2006 preseason when they slotted in at 22nd. When asked what that means to the team, he gave a similar, impartial response.

“Right now, it means nothing,” he said. “If that’s where we are in November, then we’ve had an incredible year. Right now, it’s just a recognition of what’s been going on. It’s not where you start it’s where you finish, and we have got to finish strong.”

Clearly, they’ve been playing more than just “strong” thus far. During their ten game win-streak, the Commodores have outscored opponents 25-6, which begs the question: what has gone right thus far?

Ambrose acknowledged that his team is not too deep in upperclassmen, making his junior class even more special. On the field, there has been plenty of contribution: Kaylann Boyd has been a goal-scoring machine, while Grace Jackson, Caroline Saltmarsh, Nia Dorsey, Lauren Demarchi, and Hannon Eberts have all logged consistent minutes.

Captains Gabrielle Rademaker and Lauren Demarchi also received high praise from Ambrose for leading by example. They have focused solely on their work ethic and have led by example, creating a seamless transition for freshmen. According to Ambrose, it has been these two, along with the freshmen, that have made practices so competitive day-in and day-out.

“These girls work hard,” he said. “They buy in. They’re not complacent. The environment of our practice reflects just that. The freshmen see girls like Gabrielle and Lauren and they’re inspired to work that much harder. It’s the most competitive practice environment I’ve seen in my years.

“Everyone knows they have to perform to stay on the field, in the lineup, in the substituting position, even to travel with the team because we only take 24. It’s competitive to just get on the bus with us. The harder they work the more confident they will become and the greater chance they will have to be successful.”

Lastly, Ambrose couldn’t go without mentioning Haley Hopkins. The redshirt freshman is coming off a disappointing freshman season, which saw her in and out of the hospital with a Staph Infection. He said that Hopkins has a gritty mindset that is contagious; the whole team is fueled by her drive to win.

“Haley wants to play because she wants to win,” he said. “She has a determination to beat you, a determination to get to the goal, and a determination to score goals. When it comes down to the key moments, she just fights for it.”

While Ambrose chose not to acknowledge the historical implications of this game, he knows it’s another day at the office. Another day to take on a heralded SEC opponent and to show the nation that Vanderbilt is not to be taken lightly. In order to accomplish this, he called on the fans: students, faculty, people of Nashville, the Vanderbilt soccer team needs your help. This team is incredibly good, yet they haven’t received the support they deserve. Ambrose knows that a large contingency of fans will motivate the girls that much more.

“A live sporting environment is fun and enjoyable, especially one that’s free. Soccer is not a new sport anymore. Women’s soccer in this country is very high-profile, as is all women’s athletics. Whether us, women’s bowling, or whoever– we’ve got girls that compete at the highest level. You can come out and it’s just a great two hours to spend with your family. So hopefully we will see everybody out there.”

“If there’s one thing I would say I wish I could change about this program , it’s that I wish we had better fan support.” -Darren Ambrose

Derek Mason and his Vanderbilt Commodores football team recently traveled to South Bend to take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The Commodores entered the game unranked. It seemed as though the main attraction for fans was simply experiencing a matchup against the 8th ranked Fighting Irish. According to this Vanderbilt Hustler Sports tweet, the turnout of Vanderbilt fans at South Bend was quite impressive.

Of course, if Vanderbilt was ranked, people would make the trip. But they were far from ranked. Are football fans spending their time and money to travel over 400 miles just to see the unranked team try to defeat a ranked opponent?

If so many football fans traveled all the way to South Bend just to see the Commodores come oh-so-close, why isn’t the 25th ranked soccer team getting the same attention?

Derek Mason began Tuesday’s press conference by shouting out the Commodores soccer team, who deserves every last bit of praise.

“Before I get into TSU week I want to give a shout-out to Darren Ambrose and our women’s soccer team. They’re continuing to play extremely well and they’re ten game winning streak. I’m excited for Darren and the squad.”

If people traveled to South Bend, people should try their very best to #PackThePlex on Sunday. This team deserves it.