Commodores blank Evansville 4-0 to cap off impressive week

Vanderbilt's hot start to non-conference play continued Sunday night thanks to strong play from the team's underclassmen.

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Commodores blank Evansville 4-0 to cap off impressive week

Photo by Hunter Long

Photo by Hunter Long

Photo by Hunter Long

Photo by Hunter Long

Will Fritzler, Staff Writer

The #17-ranked Commodores beat Evansville 4-0 in their second competitive match of the season behind a late brace from Haley Hopkins, a long-distance first-half strike from Peyton Cutshall, and a close-range follow-up from Alex Kerr on a rain-soaked evening in Nashville.

Evansville, a member of the Missouri Valley Conference, also lost 5-1 at home to Middle Tennessee on Thursday, having gone 1-1-1 in exhibition play.

Statistically, the Commodores were dominant throughout, managing 27 shots, with 14 on goal, to just one for Evansville, in addition to 12 corner kicks and 71% possession.

With the bulk of the ball early, Vanderbilt enjoyed several dangerous looks near goal. The first came in the 9th minute, when a corner kick found an open Grace Jackson at the far post, but her header from about six yards out lacked power and was easily grabbed by Purple Aces goalkeeper Michaela Till.

Two more close chances came roughly 10 minutes after, when a Cutshall header on frame off a high cross in the 19th minute was parried away to the right for a corner. A minute later, the best chance thus far was a second header by Cutshall, this time touching down on the turf before deflecting off the bottom corner of the far upright and being cleared away.

Evansville’s best chance in the first half came in the 37th minute, when an off-balance shot from the top of the box by Sophia Rodil was easily cradled by Commodores goalkeeper Taiana Tolleson.

Vanderbilt took 42 minutes to find a breakthrough, but its clinical beauty was a fine consolation. A slow-moving spell of offense on the left side led to a ground pass to the middle from Myra Konte, finding the feet of Cutshall who uncorked a beautiful bender from 25 yards out, which dipped into the top-right corner of the goal and past the outstretched arms of Till.

Cutshall praised her teammates after the game for their tendency to “fight and dig deeper,” continuing to press for shots late in the first half that ultimately led to her goal.

Head coach Darren Ambrose was more critical of his team’s first half performance. “I don’t think we were sharp, as committed as we should be… [Evansville] kept a lot of players behind the ball, they had good discipline, and I just don’t think we figured it out very well.”

The Commodores took just three minutes in the second half to register their second goal. A menacing airborne shot from the top right corner of the box struck the crossbar and deflected inwards, finding Kerr who tucked the ball past Till and into the bottom-right corner.

The next half-hour was more subdued for both teams. Raegan Kelley had a close-range look in front of goal in the 65th minute off a low cross, but Till was on top of the play and made the save. Evansville showed promise in the 69th minute off a through-ball to Monique Landrum who was trying to split two Vanderbilt defenders, but it was deflected wide and out of danger.

The third goal for the home side came in the 80th minute, when an aerial cross from Maddie Elwell on the right side found her fellow forward Hopkins, who headed the ball into the bottom-left corner from close range past the diving Till.

Hopkins delivered a second time eight minutes later, when a deflected ball escaped a cluster of  Evansville defenders and found Hopkins unmarked on the right side of the box, about 10 yards out. Hopkins slotted the ball into the lower-left corner to secure a brace, and Vanderbilt’s fourth and final goal.

11 goals in their first two competitive matches may indicate an offensive-minded Vanderbilt team, but their defense has been just as impressive, posting two shutouts and allowing just four shots across the two games.

On the team’s defensive strengths, Cutshall said, “We’re solid. We work well together, we communicate… we’re patient with each other.” Ambrose added that the amount of possession they had “makes it easier to defend” but still praised his defense for “keeping the ball” and limiting Evansville counterattacks.

With the win, Vanderbilt improves to 2-0-0 on the season and extends its home unbeaten streak to 15 games dating back to October 2017.

The Commodores begin a two-game California road trip against UC Irvine and Pepperdine on Friday before returning home for the Music City Invitational on Sep. 6.

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