Vanderbilt Soccer suffers first home loss since 2017, 1-0 to Florida

#15 Commodores fail to answer first-half Gators goal, fall to 1-2 in SEC play

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Vanderbilt Soccer suffers first home loss since 2017, 1-0 to Florida

Photo by Truman McDaniel

Photo by Truman McDaniel

Truman McDaniel

Photo by Truman McDaniel

Truman McDaniel

Truman McDaniel

Photo by Truman McDaniel

Will Fritzler, Staff Writer

In a game lacking the usual offensive firepower Commodore fans are used to, Vanderbilt soccer dropped its second straight game 1-0 to Florida on Sunday afternoon.

The game was Vanderbilt’s first home loss since they lost to the same Florida Gators 3-0 in October 2017, with the Commodores having earned a win or draw in their next 19 home games.

The lone Florida goal came in the 38th minute, when an aerial through-ball down the right side found midfielder Cassidy Lindley at the right edge of the 18-yard box, who summoned a clinical shot from a tough angle that nestled into the far corner of the net past Vanderbilt goalkeeper Lauren Demarchi.

Florida, despite losing four of their eight non-conference games, entered the game with a 2-0 start to SEC play, with a road win against LSU and home win against Missouri to start their conference campaign.

Vanderbilt looked largely out of sorts in the first half, only fielding one shot, their lowest first-half shot total this season. That lone chance came in the 20th minute, when forward Maddie Elwell launched a blistering run down the right side and outran her defender, only to uncork a 20-yard shot from the right side that lofted several yards high and wide of goal.

Florida, on the other hand, pieced together several dangerous first-half looks that resulted in three shots of their own, the last resulting in a goal and a 1-0 halftime lead. The first was a 20th minute shot from the top of the box by forward Deanne Rose, but the low shot bounced well wide and out without reaching frame. Four minutes later, midfielders Sammie Betters managed a 25-yard shot on-frame from straightaway, but Demarchi made the easy snag on the slow-moving ball. 

The Commodores seemed to find an offensive spark at the start of the second half. A 51st minute set-piece cross from the left side found midfielder Grace Jackson 10 yards out near the far post, but her one-time volley was skied over the bar. Six minutes later, Vanderbilt fielded its first shot on target, a Kaylann Boyd header from close range off a corner kick that lacked power and was easily grabbed by Gators’ goalkeeper Susi Espinoza.

Truman McDaniel
Madiya Harriott (#3) heads the ball over the Florida defender in Vandy’s 0-1 loss to Florida at the Vanderbilt Soccer Complex on Sunday, September 29, 2019. Photo by Truman McDaniel

Having failed to find an equalizer, Vanderbilt, perhaps discouraged, sagged into a more defensive formation for the next 10 minutes or so, allowing a few promising chances from Florida. Taiana Tolleson, Vanderbilt’s goalkeeper for the second half, was forced into two diving saves in the 61st and 63rd minutes off a 20-yard aerial shot to the lower-right corner and a narrow-angle shot near the end line, respectively.

The ensuing 20 minutes were relatively quiet from both teams, with Vanderbilt failing to show offensive urgency until the last few minutes. The home team’s final push almost resulted in the tying goal, with an 89th minute cross from the right resulting in a Haley Hopkins header at the far post that would’ve met the net had Espinoza not been alert to make the close-range save.

The Commodores finished with just 12 shots and 52 percent possession.

“We’re in a rut. We’re creating opportunities but we’re making bad choices, lacking some composure,” head coach Darren Ambrose said of his team’s offensive struggles. “We gotta question whether we’re working hard enough in practice to fix it.”

According to Ambrose, the team’s recent problems aren’t with creating good looks but capitalizing on them.

“I thought we were quite good, but at the end of the day, it’s not about being pretty, it’s about what you do in the 18-yard box, and at the moment we’ve got some girls who are getting in decent spots and either panic or mishit a shot, and we’re not getting to loose balls in the box,” Ambrose said.

Although they entered the game ranked 15 in the country in the latest United Soccer Coaches poll, and 8 in the Top Drawer poll, the Commodores are bound to drop in both following this game and their road loss to Arkansas on Thursday.

Vanderbilt will look to bounce back on the road against Georgia on Oct. 4 before returning home to face Missouri Oct. 10.

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