Vanderbilt soccer fell in its final exhibition of the spring season on Sunday versus National Women’s Soccer League club Racing Louisville FC, with a final score of 2-1. Coming off of a 3-0 win versus DePaul, the Commodores certainly had a tough task ahead of them scrimmaging a professional side. The Commodores went down 2-0 within 50 minutes, but they used a resurgent second half to cut the lead and keep the match competitive.
RLFC put the Commodores under immense pressure from the opening whistle, consistently keeping the ball in the attacking third for the first twenty minutes of the match. Racing Louisville was dominant in possession, in large part due to the midfield play of Yuki Nagasato. As the half progressed, RLFC began to create threatening chances which were subsequently dealt with by Vanderbilt goalkeeper Sarah Fuller.
“[Fuller] had a fantastic game,” Vanderbilt head coach Darren Ambrose said. “I thought she was great with her hands and was really effective in her communication with the back line.”
Unfortunately for the Commodores, the relentless pressure for RLFC finally broke through the Vanderbilt back line in the 43rd minute with a goal from Lauren Milliet. Racing Louisville took the 1-0 lead into the halftime break as they looked to have the Commodores on their heels.
As the sides returned from the locker room, RLFC continued to apply pressure in the attacking third and continued to generate chances around the Vanderbilt net. This pressure resulted in a penalty kick won by Lauren Milliet and converted by Cece Kizer in the 48th minute to put Racing Louisville up 2-0. The match appeared to be slipping out of the Commodores’ hands, but Vanderbilt responded with a strong second half performance, starting with a close header attempt from Haley Hopkins in the 50th minute which veered just wide.
Vanderbilt used the momentum from this counter-attack to mount some attacks into the RLFC defensive third and get out from underneath the Racing Louisville press. Finally, in the 68th minute, Raegan Kelley slipped behind the RLFC defensive and converted her chance with a right-footed shot into the back of the net to cut the lead to 2-1. The Commodores carried the momentum from the goal throughout the rest of the half, controlling possession for large portions of the half and beginning to dictate the pace of the match.
“I thought they were excellent in the second half,” Ambrose said. “We scored a great goal and created a couple of other close chances… we asked them to be a bit tougher and they responded very well,.They made it a fight and a game and that’s something to be proud of.”
The Commodores kept at it for the rest of the 90 minutes, including a couple chances created by Maddie Elwell in the box, but were not able to convert on them. The final whistle blew and the score ended to be a 2-1 defeat for the Commodores. Speaking after the game, Coach Ambrose felt confident about his squad’s prospects looking forward.
“They still have the fight I think we’re known for,” Ambrose said. “They’re competitive kids who battle hard, and they didn’t back down tonight even after a quick first half. They showed that they can stand up to challenges, but also that we’ve got some work to do.”
Looking forward, the Commodores have three matches left in their spring season as they prepare for the NCAA Tournament in May.