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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Season Recap: Vanderbilt Soccer’s NCAA Tournament hopes fall short

After a stellar season and a first round win in the NCAA Tournament, the Commodores fell to the Northwestern Wildcats, 2-1, in the second round.
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Lindsey Jorda
Vanderbilt soccer huddles before the game against South Carolina, as captured on Oct. 14, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Lindsey Jorda)

Vanderbilt Soccer’s season came to an end on Nov. 18 after a heartbreaking 2-1 loss to the Northwestern Wildcats in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The team finishes its 2022 campaign with a final record of 12-5-4.

“At the end of the day, we came up a little bit short, but [I’m] really proud,” head coach Darren Ambrose said after the game. “Nothing to be ashamed of.”

After taking down No. 9 Arkansas and narrowly falling to No. 3 Alabama in the SEC Tournament, the Commodores earned an NCAA Tournament berth and defeated No. 25 Clemson in the first round. This tournament appearance marked the fifth time in six years that Ambrose had led his squad to the big dance. The program itself has only 12 appearances total and has never fought its way past the second round, making the team’s matchup with Northwestern a chance to change the history books, but ultimately, it was not to be.

The game started with the sides at a stalemate, going scoreless through the first half. However, just nine minutes into the second, the Wildcats broke the deadlock, going up 1-0 early in the period. Vanderbilt would put the ball in the back of the net about 10 minutes later, but the goal was ruled offside and the scoreboard remained unchanged.

In the 81st minute, Northwestern doubled their lead and put the Commodores in a two-score hole. Vanderbilt regained life just two minutes later when fifth-year defender Ella Shamburger converted her third penalty kick of the season. But, the Wildcats’ second goal proved to be the difference as the Commodores couldn’t complete their comeback. This 2-1 loss meant the end of Vanderbilt’s tournament run and its season as a whole.

“I thought we were better—I’ve got to be honest with you—over the course of 90 minutes,” Ambrose said. “I’m just proud of how we played and the way we competed—the energy, the intensity, the belief, the passion. I couldn’t say enough positive things about my group.”

Vanderbilt finished the regular season second in the SEC East and won three games against ranked opponents, despite never being ranked themselves. Though the side has six fifth-years and three seniors on the roster, there is also a great wealth of young talent that will carry this squad into 2023. In fact, of the 16 players who made an appearance in the Northwestern matchup, nine of them were underclassmen and four of those were freshmen.

Since coming from the University of Pennsylvania in 2015, Ambrose has led Vanderbilt’s soccer program to the greatest stretch in its history. Before Ambrose, Vanderbilt Soccer had just eight wins over ranked opponents, hadn’t had a winning season in six years and hadn’t won an NCAA Tournament game in 17 years. With Ambrose, the Commodores have 18 wins over ranked opponents; achieved their highest AP ranking at No. 4 in the nation; became seeded in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history; won four NCAA Tournament games and their first since 1998; had their first player drafted to the NWSL; and earned an SEC East crown, an SEC regular-season crown and an SEC Tournament trophy. Truly, he is building this program into a powerhouse in both the SEC and NCAA.

“I was thankful for the year we’ve had,” Ambrose said when asked what he told the team after the loss. “They’ve reestablished a sense of team and a belief in each other and a belief in the system we have. It’s been a great three or four months where I think we’ve established that we’re a really competitive program that’s got big aspirations. When you walk off the field tonight, nothing to be ashamed of. That game could have gone either way.”

Though players and fans alike will be upset with the result, the season was another impressive one under Ambrose, and the program has a bright future ahead.

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About the Contributors
Sam Curtis
Sam Curtis, Former Deputy Sports Editor
Sam Curtis (’24) is from Wallingford, Conn., majoring in human and organizational development and French and minoring in data science in Peabody College. He was previously Assistant Sports Editor and Sports Copy Editor. When not writing for The Hustler, he cheers on the Philadelphia Eagles, the 76ers and Leeds United. Outside of sports, he enjoys traveling and learning about history and philosophy. He can be reached at [email protected].    
Lindsey Jorda
Lindsey Jorda, Former Social Media Director
Lindsey Jorda (‘23) is double majoring in neuroscience and psychology in the College of Arts and Science. When not working for The Hustler, she loves reading, listening to music, watching movies and playing with her dog. She can be reached at [email protected].
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