Lady Vols' soccer motivation found in Ali Hall

To Ali Hall, it's much more than a pregame routine.

Racing down the hallway at Regal Soccer Stadium in the direction of the team's locker room, the senior defender shouts over her shoulder.

"It's like a reminder of what I am playing for," she said.

Reaching the door that separates the facility from the field, Hall points up at the words "relentless, process oriented and camaraderie."

Hall stretches on her tiptoes and reaches her hand above the doorframe to touch those words printed on light blue cardstocks before each home game.

"It's like a motto," Hall said Monday. "I bring those words into every game."

Hall yearns to smack those signs one last time as the Lady Vols (14-4-2) begin SEC tournament play against sixth-seeded Auburn (11-9) today at 3:30 p.m. Eastern in Orange Beach, Ala.

A strong performance in the tournament will grant Hall her wish.

The top 32 teams at the conclusion of conference tournament play will host the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament.

The third-seeded Lady Vols are ranked No. 23.

"We live by those words," Hall said. "I want to touch those signs again. I don't see a reason why I can't. We're good and we're clicking."

And "clicking" may be an understatement for the defensive cornerstone who garnered second team All-SEC accolades Monday.

"We have all the tools on D," Hall said. "We are reaching our peak and it's all starting to result in success."

The success Hall speaks of has translated into one of the best defensive units in Tennessee history.

Anchored by Hall, UT's season goals-against average of 0.63 is the lowest in school history and ranks second best in the SEC this season.

"We do well," Hall said with a laugh

With Hall playing the full match in 15 of UT's 20 contests this season, the Lady Vols set the school record for the longest shutout streak at 533 minutes.

The defense has allowed just 13 goals this season. The school record is 18.

UT also enters tournament play with nine shutouts, two short of the school record.

"The numbers don't mean anything," Hall said. "I haven't won an SEC tournament before. The seniors, we are going to win one. There is no other option in my head."

The senior class has qualified for the SEC tournament all four years, but has yet to bring home the hardware.

Hall said she vividly remembers last year's SEC tournament ending with a 2-0 loss to eventual champion Auburn.

"That lights a huge fire under our butts," she said. "They ruined our season last year. We are excited about another chance at 'em."

The Lady Vols beat Auburn 1-0 on the road Oct. 7.

Even sweeter, Hall was named SEC Defensive Player of the Week the day after the Auburn victory.

"Walking out on senior night (against Georgia), thinking that this could be the last time playing on this amazing facility made me sick to my stomach," Hall said. "We beat them once, no reason we can't again."

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