Vanderbilt soccer bests Providence 4-0, improves to 4-0 this season

The Commodores maintain their undefeated record with their second home win of the season, dominating the Friars along the way.

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Vanderbilt Athletics

Vanderbilt soccer huddles on their home field. (Vanderbilt Athletics)

Sam Curtis, Sports Copy Editor

With football’s strong win over Hawaii fresh in Commodore fans’ minds, Vanderbilt soccer added to the school’s celebration with a 4-0 win over the Providence Friars. 

The game started with Vanderbilt on the front foot. Junior Abi Brighton opened the game’s action with a shot from distance that Providence keeper Emma Bodmer had to parry just wide of the net. From there, the Commodores continued to press the issue. The team had four corners in the first 20 minutes of the match, but no goals to show for it. By the final whistle, Vanderbilt racked up 10 corners without producing much offense from the set pieces.

“We’ve got to be a little bit better [with corners],” head coach Darren Ambrose said. “We plan to address that this week.”

A contentious moment in fans’ eyes occurred in the 38th minute of play when winger Caroline Betts was hit from behind at the top of the 18-yard box. She fell hard to the ground and was slow to get up, but the referee was unmoved. Betts had been within the bounds of the penalty box and would have earned a penalty kick had the foul been called; however, the game continued amid complaints from Vanderbilt fans.

The first period closed with the Commodores leading in shots (7-1), corners (6-0) and possession (65%). When the whistle sounded, the Friars had completely backed off defensively, often playing with as many as 10 players behind the ball. Still, the Commodores couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net. Their offense consisted of long-distance shots and crosses into crowded boxes. Clearly, they needed to try something new in the second half.

“We talked about trying to be aggressive running behind the line,” Ambrose said, recalling the side’s halftime meeting. “In the first half, we were very passive and everything was underneath. We really didn’t get around the side. We didn’t really penetrate with runs behind the backline. During halftime, we said, ‘The last 10 minutes were great. Keep doing that. Just keep going and keep going and keep going.’ And in the second half, we started to get runs in behind and then runs wide, and that was what created problems.”

The team came out of the locker room hungry for goals. They pressed high and threatened to score often. Eleven minutes into the period, they were rewarded with a penalty kick off a Providence handball. Captain Ella Shamburger confidently strode up to take the chance and put it away with ease. Yet, a 1-0 scoreline was not enough for the Commodores. The side held its high attacking line and pushed the Friars into a deep defensive stance. With more chances, Vanderbilt soon found another breakthrough.

In the 69th minute of the game, Kelley found some open space on the left side and sent in a cross to a waiting Rachel Deresky. The sophomore brought the ball down right to the feet of a waiting Addie Porter who slotted it home for her first career goal.

Vanderbilt did not stop, though. They kept shooting and eventually forced a mistake from Providence goalie Bodmer. It was Hannah McLaughlin’s powerful strike to the right side of the net that gave the keeper trouble, as she mishandled the ball and allowed it to trickle in for the Commodores’ third score of the night. The goal was the first of McLaughlin’s young career.

“The most amazing feeling,” McLaughlin said in reference to her goal. “I’m so happy right now.”

Graduate transfer Brooke VanDyck closed the scoring on a beautiful combination with junior Tina Bruni. With some fancy footwork, VanDyck received a cross from Bruni and dribbled around the keeper to slot home her seventh career goal—her first for Vanderbilt.

Clearly, Vanderbilt enjoys wearing down opponents and capitalizing on strong second halves. In its last two games alone, Vanderbilt has outscored teams 6-0 in the second period. 

“Honestly, it’s just a mindset change,” McLaughlin said. “We realized [at halftime] what we had to do and we just put our minds to it.”

After the game, Coach Ambrose talked about his message to the team after such a strong start to the season that includes zero goals allowed and four impressive wins.

“The message is fairly simple, and that is: You’ve got to keep doing what you’re doing. We still have some work to do as we go into our schedule and the SEC games roll around,” Ambrose said. “At this point, I really feel like we’re just beginning to hit a stride.”

With this win, the Commodores improve their record to 4-0. Their next matchup will take place at home against East Tennessee State on Sept. 2 at 7 p.m. CDT.