KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (school release) -- On a beautiful Sunday afternoon in front of 1,389 fans at the Regal Soccer Stadium, the #19 Tennessee Lady Vol soccer team (13-5-0, 6-4-0 Southeastern Conference) celebrated its “Senior Day” festivities in true style by riding goals from junior midfielder Amy Harrison and senior honoree Chelsea Hatcher to a commanding 2-0 victory over #22 Auburn (11-5-2, 5-4-1 SEC).
With the triumph, the Big Orange secured its 14th consecutive berth in the annual SEC Tournament to be held over Nov. 2-6 in Orange Beach, Ala.
Harrison got the Big Orange attack going by blasting home her third goal of the campaign just 2:33 into the contest. The occurrence marked the fifth time in 2011 that the Big Orange scored on its very first shot of a match. For Hatcher the goal marked her fourth of the year and provided valuable insurance at the 54:55 mark. Fellow “Senior Day” honoree Emily Dowd was credited with her seventh assist and sophomore Caroline Brown picked up her team-best eighth helper of the season on Harrison’s eventual match-winning tally.
UT freshman goalkeeper Julie Eckel recorded her 13th career victory and seventh career solo shutout by registering five saves in posting the clean sheet.
Tennessee out-shot the Tigers by a 17-13 total, including 6-5 on shots on goal, and posted a 10-4 advantage on corner kicks.
“Auburn’s a tough opponent,” Lady Vol Head Coach Angela Kelly said. “(Katy) Frierson’s a handful, and they’re a great team. We knew that coming in and had to organize and prepare. It was an enjoyable match to watch. Our group executed the game plan. They thought for themselves out there and took ownership of the game. They played for one another. That’s what we want them to do every day, not just on ‘Senior Day.’ This team is very close knit. Throughout this whole season, they’ve pulled and played for one another. It was just a great day. This Lady Vol senior class has certainly put their stamp on this program. This (season) is far from over.”
The Big Orange wasted zero time securing the momentum against Auburn, scoring on its very first shot of the contest at the 2:33 mark. Dowd battled her marker near the left end line before crossing the ball towards the middle. Brown managed a quick flick out to Harrison on the right wing. The Winnipeg, Alberta, Canada, native settled the ball and blasted home the goal from approximately 12 yards for a quick 1-0 advantage.
The Tigers managed their initial shot of the contest at 3:52 as stand-out midfielder Katy Frierson launched a shot from just outside the top of the 18-yard box that drifted just wide of the right post.
The lead nearly became two goals at 10:34 off a UT corner kick as a cross to the middle by senior midfielder Emily Shore was chipped just over the crossbar and onto the top netting by Brown.
During the 19th minute AU midfielder Ashley Kotero forced the initial Eckel stop of the match as her header proved no trouble for UT’s net minder.
Off yet another of Tennessee’s four first-half corners, this one during the 29th minute, junior defender Ali Hall had a shot blocked out front. Off a rebound, Dowd followed up with a drive on frame that was stopped on a dive by Auburn goalkeeper Amy Howard.
In an intensely physical match that saw both teams combine for 31 fouls, three yellow cards and an Auburn red card at 88:49, the Tigers finally mounted some sustained offensive pressure starting at 40:52. Tess Patton forced an Eckel save, and then AU earned its first corner of the contest at 42:05. Off the feed into the middle, the Tigers’ Jessica Wolfe and Patton each had shots blocked as the teams went to the locker room break with UT ahead 1-0.
Out of the locker room Tennessee managed three successive corners from 46:45 to 48:27, applying constant pressure that resulted in five UT shots. During the flurry Hatcher and Dowd forced Howard into action between the pipes with on-target drives.
It proved to be the senior Hatcher that granted the Big Orange some insurance at 54:55. The Cincinnati, Ohio, native gathered a ball, dribbled just inside the left edge of the 18 and unleashed a blast that beat Howard for a 2-0 lead.
The contest didn’t get overly concerning during the second half for the Lady Vols until the 83rd minute. That’s when Frierson uncorked a shot that hit off the right post/crossbar connection while a rebound bounced back into the middle. A follow-up drive by midfielder Ana Cate traveled wide right as UT dodged a potential bullet.
With just three minutes left on the clock Eckel came up big once again, deflecting a Frierson shot just up and over the bar. One final shot off an AU corner by Cate traveled high as Tennessee secured its clean sheet.
#19 Tennessee concludes its 2011 regular season on Fri., Oct. 28, by venturing to Athens, Ga., to face the Georgia Bulldogs at 7 p.m. ET.