Vanderbilt Soccer wins record-tying 11th consecutive game in drubbing of Georgia


Claire Barnett

The Vanderbilt Soccer team plays UGA on Sunday, September 30, 2018. The Commodores won 5-0, extending their lengthy winning streak. (Hustler Multimedia/Claire Barnett)

Cutler Klein, Sports Editor

In front of a packed house at the Vanderbilt Soccer Complex, the 25th-ranked Commodores rode a first-half scoring blitz to defeat the Georgia Bulldogs 5-0 on Sunday.

The win was Vanderbilt’s 11th in a row, tying the record for longest winning streak in program history that was set in 2005. It also kept them at the top of the SEC standings with a perfect 4-0 conference record.

Forward Haley Hopkins continued to excel for Vanderbilt with a pair of goals, and Madison Elwell pitched in with a brilliant free-kick goal to close the first half and an assist off a corner kick in the second half.

With around 1,000 spectators in the building and a national TV audience watching on ESPNU, there’s no question that this was a statement win for Vanderbilt.

“I think we came out to make a statement because people have been saying different things about how it’s just luck to get where we’ve gotten so far,” Elwell said. “I think the biggest thing for us was making sure that we come out and we show everybody that it wasn’t the case, that we earned our spot and deserved to be there.”

After the run of play went back-and-forth in the early moments and both teams shook off the nerves of such an intense crowd, Vanderbilt began to find the clinical touch that has taken them to this point in the season. At the 16:50 mark of the first half, defender Ella Shamburger sent a long ball to Hopkins, who brilliantly headed it towards a streaking Kaylann Boyd. She took a pair of touches and rifled a curling shot to the top right corner for the opening goal.

That first strike opened the floodgates for Vanderbilt as the first half wore on. Just three minutes later, Hopkins earned her first goal of the game on a set piece opportunity. Leila Azari fed the ball from a corner kick and it fell to Hopkins at the back post, who took multiple kicks at the ball before finally knocking it in with the right foot to make it 2-0 Commodores.

Vanderbilt continued the offensive attack and found the back of the net again at 26:21 of the first half. Hopkins found the ball again at the near post and buried it after an Elwell free kick pinballed through the box and ricocheted off the goalkeeper.

The Vanderbilt Soccer team plays UGA on Sunday, September 30, 2018. The Commodores won 5-0, extending their lengthy winning streak. (Photo by Claire Barnett)

The forward trio of Hopkins, Boyd and Elwell stood out for Vanderbilt yet again, as they accounted for all but two of Vanderbilt’s shots on goal.

“The three of them are pretty special,” head coach Darren Ambrose said. “They’re kids that, when they get going, they are a handful. And they’re all different. They’re all different in how they play, but certainly the understanding between them, the athletic ability, the soccer ability. It’s a fun combination to have.”

The game settled down for a few minutes, but Vanderbilt held a distinct edge in possession even as Georgia found a few scoring opportunities in close on goalkeeper Lauren Demarchi. However, any Bulldog momentum was squashed when Elwell fired a free-kick missile to the far corner and in from just outside the goal box to make it 4-0 Vanderbilt going into halftime.

The Vanderbilt Soccer team plays UGA on Sunday, September 30, 2018. The Commodores won 5-0, extending their lengthy winning streak. (Photo by Claire Barnett)

The crowd continued to be a factor throughout this one, and it gave the players energy on the field and gave the team a platform to show the community what they’re all about.

“Our marketing department put everything into it,” Ambrose said of the #PackThePlex promotion to drive attendance at this game. “Donielle White in particular has been fantastic. And there it is, there’s the result. We can get people in the stands. We can put people in here because it’s a fun event. There’s a lot of good things that happen here, the Kids Zone. It takes a lot of work. That doesn’t happen overnight, and I’m just really grateful to our marketing and administration for putting in the effort to push this game.”

Vanderbilt added one more goal in the second half on a corner-kick header by freshman Madi Allen. It was Allen’s first collegiate goal. Demarchi preserved the shutout late in the half with a lunging save on a curling shot by Georgia’s Landon Lambert.

The Commodores wil likely climb this week’s Coaches Poll yet again, and Ambrose hopes that this win is a big confidence-booster for his team going into a tough SEC stretch.

“I think the game is the game, whether it’s a tight game or a game in which we score three, four or five goals,” Ambrose said. “But, I just think that they love to play together. It’s fun. No matter who we’re playing right now, there’s an energy to them that we figure it out as we go. We have the best plan laid out, but it changes and they adapt. There’s just a really good chemistry to them and they continue to work hard.”

Vanderbilt looks to break the winning streak record on Thursday when the Commodores take on Mississippi State at 7 PM at the Vanderbilt Soccer Complex.