Soccer: Ambrose talks early spring season results and expectations

With the Commodores out of the gates in their Spring 2022 season, head coach Darren Ambrose gives his expectations for the short season.

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Vanderbilt Athletics

Vanderbilt soccer huddles during the 2021-22 school year. (Vanderbilt Athletics)

Anish Mago, Staff Writer

Vanderbilt soccer kicked off their short spring season with two away games last week at Memphis and Lipscomb. Though the spring season will not culminate in a postseason, the exhibition matches can still give the Commodores an early look at their squad dynamics for next season. 

The Commodores made out well in their first two of five exhibition matches that they will play this spring, winning 1-0 against Memphis and drawing 1-1 with Lipscomb.

“In general, our goals are to see individual development this spring. We’ve got some team development things we want to achieve, but within that team structure, we’re looking for individual roles to grow,” head coach Darren Ambrose told The Hustler. “We’re seeing some new players come in and get established and want to get some of our younger players a bit more confident and comfortable with the expectations of their role.”

One of the biggest changes for the Commodores heading into next season will be the loss of senior forward Maddie Elwell. She was drafted 15th overall in the NWSL draft by the Washington Spirit and will leave Vanderbilt after nearly 100 career appearances, in which she tallied 12 goals, 29 assists and two All-SEC Second Team nods. Despite the void she will leave behind on the Commodores front line, Ambrose expressed confidence in his players to fill her position. 

“Every year you graduate great players—if you have a good program, it happens every year. We’ve got other players who have been working hard, and it’s their time to shine,” Ambrose said. “I don’t know if you ‘replace’ the players, but you keep the same standards for their effort and commitment and capitalize on their strengths.”

With players cycling in and out of the program, Ambrose also spoke about players he expects to take on more responsibility heading into the fall. Specifically, he talked about sophomore midfielder Amber Nguyen as someone he has seen take strides early in this spring season. After starting only one game last year, Nguyen burst onto the scene for the Commodores as a sophomore, tallying six combined goals and assists in just 11 starts. 

In addition to Nguyen, Ambrose mentioned first-year transfer Francesca Yanchuk. After spending her first fall season at Villanova, Yanchuk transferred to Vanderbilt in January to join the Commodores. 

“One of the newcomers—Fran Yanchuk from Villanova—has really started to catch everyone’s attention. In the games we’ve played she has really stood out as she has become more comfortable,” Ambrose said. “She came for the challenge and wants to improve and has shown that she has tremendous tools to play an attacking role for us.” 

On the defensive half of the field, the Commodores’ center back partnership of junior Maya Antoine and sophomore Alex Wagner will be joined by graduate transfer Abena Aidoo. The former California defender started 56 games for the Golden Bears over four years before transferring to Vanderbilt in January. Ambrose was quick to mention how the Aidoo has made an immediate effect along the back line for the Commodores.

Vanderbilt will continue its spring season on April 9 against Alabama before finishing their season with matches against Middle Tennessee and Murray State.