The Vanderbilt women’s soccer team is turning heads as they notch their sixth-straight win with a 2-0 result over the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.
Jackie Welch opened the scoring with a tap-in off a corner kick in the first half, and Madison Elwell added the dagger in the second half with a screaming curling shot over the keeper.
The Commodores set out to extend a winning streak that would be their longest in over a decade. 2005 was the last time the Commodores won six or more consecutive games. However, they did not come into this match expecting it to be easy.
Despite a 2-2-2 record entering the match, Western Kentucky came into Nashville after a whopping 9-0 victory over Kentucky Christian three days prior. The Hilltoppers play a physical brand of soccer capable of giving any team trouble.
The game opened with aggressive back-and-forth between the two sides. Western Kentucky flashed their capability getting off the first shot of the game at 1:15 missing wide of the right-side post.
Vanderbilt responded with a shot by Madison Elwell, forcing a save by the goalkeeper. Elwell was only beginning to leave her mark on this game.
The opening ten minutes were a grappling match between the two sides with each trying to gain a foothold in the game. Vanderbilt’s defense held up well fending off the counterattack. With a versatile back line that dropped back four on defense and sends their speedy outside backs to get involved in the attack, the Commodores displayed a “bend but don’t break” strategy.
At times, Western Kentucky looked as if they might threaten to score only to be snuffed out by defenders Madiya Harriott and Nia Dorsey. Outside of a shot calmly saved by keeper Lauren Demarchi at 11:30, the Commodores rarely gave the opposition space to breathe in the defensive half.
Vanderbilt responded immediately with a defense-splitting ball down the sideline and cross leading to a Haley Hopkins header just narrowly missing the target at the 12’ minute mark.
That chance seemed to provide the jolt the Commodores needed.
What followed was a barrage of relentless chances made by the Vanderbilt attack. Chance after chance, they came within inches of scoring until finally breaking through and taking the lead at 14:23.
The goal to break the deadlock came from a low corner by Elwell which pinballed its way to the feet of defender Welch who sent it flying into the back of the net.
A couple of outstanding one-on-one saves by Western Kentucky keeper Bailee Witt prevented the Commodores from giving the Hilltoppers a mountain to climb within the opening 45’.
Vanderbilt finished the half 1-0 with everything save for a few more goals. The Commodores dominated every statistical category at the half with 10 shots to Western Kentucky’s three.
Coming out of the halftime break, Vanderbilt hoped to convert more of their chances. The attack maintained its intensity from the latter portion of the first half. The Commodores sent three and four attackers to press the opposing back line at times. The aggressive yielded many chances but, much like the first half, Vanderbilt struggled to put away goals.
— Vanderbilt Soccer (@Vandysocr) September 7, 2018
With 15 minutes left and only a 1-0 lead it was easy to believe Western Kentucky could get back in the game.
Elwell had other plans.
At 75:54, Elwell pushed the ball down the left sideline, split two defenders, and took an absolute beauty of a shot from the top of the box. Bending it over the keeper’s outstretched arms, Elwell silenced any thought of a comeback.
“When push comes to shove, someone has to do it. I knew that was the one moment and I had to take it,” Elwell said.
Vanderbilt wraps up non-conference play this Sunday with a matchup in Atlanta against Georgia State.