Matchups between two top-15 teams are bound to bring fireworks.
But tonight’s matchup between the 12th-ranked Vanderbilt Commodores and 9th-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks reached a fever pitch, extending into overtime before finishing a scoreless draw, 0-0.
The draw snapped the Commodores’ program-record 13-game win streak dating back to their August 16th loss at Florida State, but the team remains undefeated and at the top of the table in SEC. play.
Not surprisingly for a top-ten team, South Carolina started on the front foot. The Gamecocks dominated early possession, pinning Vanderbilt midfielders in their own half. The tone was set early with a first minute shot from South Carolina midfielder Luciana Zullo, who flashed a ball across the face of goal past Vanderbilt goalkeeper Lauren Demarchi, but the shot rolled just wide of the right post.
South Carolina pressure continued in the opening ten minutes, with a second shot by Zullo in the 10th minute from outside the box sailing wide and left of frame.
After withstanding the strong initial thrust by the Gamecocks, the Commodores forced their way into SC territory, fielding their best shot of the half with an 11th minute bender from the edge of the box by Jackie Welch. The ball careemed wide and right of frame, ultimately no trouble for Gamecocks goalkeeper Mika Krzeczowski, but the buildup looked dangerous.
The rest of the first half was marked by high pressing from South Carolina and a lack of offensive rhythm for Vanderbilt, with the Commodores registering just three first-half shots. The few offensive looks Vanderbilt had, including blocked shots from Grace Jackson and Haley Hopkins, posed little danger and were more individual efforts than the results of cohesive team buildup.
The Commodores managed to flip possession more in their favor to start the second half, with the opening ten minutes featuring a strong buildup from the home side. A 49th-minute cross for Hannon Eberts forced Gamecocks goalkeeper Mika Krzeczowski to punch away, and an ensuing shot from Jackson from the top of the box could have troubled but sailed over the bar.
In tune with the back-and-forth nature of the game, South Carolina knocked firmly on Vanderbilt’s door in the 57th minute, with a Zullo curler forcing a diving save from Commodores goalkeeper Lauren Demarchi, her second of three saves in the game.
Perhaps the best chance of the game for South Carolina came a minute later, with Magnusdottir leaking behind the Commodores backline and forcing Demarchi off her line to the right side of the penalty area. Demarchi left a semi-open net for Magnusdottir, but cut the angle off just enough to force the shot left of the far post.
Vanderbilt forced two saves of its own in the 68th and 71st minute, with headers from Hopkins and Jackson ultimately reaching the hands of Krzeczowski, the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Week and one of the premier goalkeepers in the country.
The game slowed in the final minutes of regulation, with neither team posing real threats to their opposing goalkeepers.
Having featured no goals in the first 90 minutes, the game advanced to a two-half, 20-minute golden goal overtime period. Few chances were registered in the first overtime period, but tense moments followed in the second portion.
Freshman Raegan Kelley slotted a loose ball towards the left post in close quarters with just two minutes left, but Krzeczowski made an impressive ground save befitting her reputation as a highly skilled nettender. Krzeczowski made another stop on a subsequent header from Peyton Cutshall, which had fallen invitingly at the foot of the right post in the final minute in what was the Commodores’ final chance.
The flurry of shots before final time gave Commodore fans much cause for excitement, but the final whistle blew without either team finding the back of the net.
After the game, Commodores head coach Darren Ambrose pointed to the frantic, mostly stifled first half as something to learn from.
“The first half showed what I figured at some point would show in a bigger game, and that’s a little bit of intimidation and a little bit of youth,” Ambrose said. “We just looked scared.”
But, Ambrose was proud of his team’s performance overall.
“I thought in the second half and overtime, we fought like hell. In the outcome you love to win, but I’ll take a draw against a team like that.”
The game’s attendance was 1,177 fans, setting a new attendance record for the soccer team at Vanderbilt Soccer Complex. After the game, Lauren Demarchi said the environment was “nothing like I’ve ever experienced” and was excited for what the record meant for her team.
Vanderbilt will travel to Auburn to take on the Tigers next Thursday, October 18th, after which two more games will conclude the regular season before the SEC Tournament.