The Tennessee women's soccer team made its return to the NCAA tournament on Saturday afternoon after a two-year absence.
It was a short and not-so-sweet return.
Junior forward Tiffany Cameron scored two goals and unranked Ohio State upset the No. 25 Lady Vols 3-0 in front of 724 fans at Regal Soccer Stadium.
UT (15-7-0) was a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament. The Lady Vols were 9-0-1 during five previous stints as hosts of NCAA matches.
"For this team, it was a tremendous season," Lady Vols coach Angela Kelly said. "This senior class has certainly put their stamp on this program. We didn't finish the way we wanted to, but unless we had won the national championship, there would always have been disappointment."
That disappointment was evident during the post-game news conference.
"It's been the best four years of my life," said Lady Vols senior forward Emily Dowd, fighting back tears. "I wouldn't change it for anything. I'm so disappointed it's over. I wish more than anything it would have went our way, but that's life and you have to face it, and I'm so glad I've been a part of this."
Ohio State (11-8-2) got an at-large bid into the tournament after losing to Illinois on penalty kicks in the first round of the Big Ten tournament.
The Buckeyes weren't intimidated going on the road against a favored team.
"We've never had a problem being the underdog," senior defender Danielle Scoliere said. "We were confident in ourselves. Last week we thought our season had ended, so getting into the NCAAs was a blessing, and maybe the loss last week was a blessing in disguise because we played loose and fun, and when we play loose and fun, good things happen."
Cameron stunned the Lady Vols in the 9th minute when she took a cross from the right wing by Kendyl Reed and fired a shot from 9 yards past freshman goalkeeper Julie Eckel.
The Buckeyes threatened again in the 10th minute off a corner kick, but Eckel stopped a header by Lauren Granberg followed by two more shots by Cameron and Paige Maxwell.
Ohio State led 1-0 at halftime and had 11 shots (five on goal) to the Lady Vols' six shots (two on goal).
"I think Ohio State scoring that first goal, the wind was taken out of our sails at little bit, because that goal could have been negated had we done the things we know we need to do," Kelly said. "That was a little deflating, and then we got a little fragmented for the rest of that half."
The Buckeyes made it 2-0 with 22:52 left to play off a corner kick by Megan Fuller. Caitlyn Martin's header was no good, but left a high-bouncing ball that was settled by Kristen Niederhaus and fired past Eckel.
Cameron scored again 5 minutes later after a deflection following Fuller's corner kick.
"I'm extremely proud of how our team came out and really got after it, especially in the attacking end," Ohio State coach Lori Walker said. "We've struggled all season to find the net, and I think these players have played through a lot of adversity, so I'm really proud of the way they came out and really made a statement here today."
Dave Link is a freelance contributor.