The Tennessee women’s soccer team spring opener didn’t exactly resemble what you’d expect, with temperatures in the 30s and officials using gas blowers to clear the Regal Stadium pitch of snow last Saturday.
And the Lady Vols didn’t exactly resemble the team that set a program record for goals-against average and made the NCAA tournament last season.
But it is indeed just spring and Lady Vols coach Brian Pensky admitted as much one day after Tennessee’s 3-2 loss to Indiana.
“It is spring and especially in the first game of spring you are trying things out,” said Pensky, who is in his second season with the Lady Vols.
“From an experience standpoint and minutes standpoint, today was a successful day but from a playing great soccer (standpoint) and getting the results that we wanted, today could have gone better.”
The Lady Vols, whose 2012 campaign ended with a disappointing home upset to Miami (Ohio) in the first round of the NCAA tournament, scored first at 31:30 in the first half when freshman Susan Ferguson pooched a shot over the head of Indiana goalkeeper Shannon Flower’s head after Flowers attempted to beat Ferguson to secure possession in front of the box.
Tennessee spent much of the first half playing defense and the Lady Hoosiers tied the match at the 19-minute mark when Jordan Woolums found a streaking Lisa Nouanesensgsy, who screamed a shot past the head of Tennessee goalkeeper Julie Eckel.
It was an unusually rough day for Eckel, who posted a 0.70 goals-against average last fall.
The Lady Vols took a 2-1 lead nine minutes later when Tori Bailey sent a shot through Flowers’ legs minutes before Nouanesensgsy took advantage of a sloppy Lady Vols possession and sent another streaking shot past Eckel.
“The first half was a little sloppy and the conditions were tough but this is the time to develop and try to get better individually and as a team,” Pensky said.
The Lady Vols, who lost five seniors from last year’s team and featured six freshmen last fall, fell behind at 32:30 in the second half when a shot deflected off Eckel’s hands and bounced straight to Nouanesensgsy, who completed the hat trick for the Hoosiers by punching it in for the 3-2 advantage.
“I am disappointed that we gave up three goals today but honestly I am more disappointed that our possession wasn’t better,” Pensky said.
The Lady Vols squandered a late opportunity when Peyton Thomas was wide open on a break but was whistled for offsides.
Next up for Tennessee is a home contest against Clemson at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Wilkinsons in Cyrpus Cup: Sophomore forward and New Zealand native Hannah Wilkinson, Tennessee’s leading scorer last season who was a 2012 All-American and member of New Zealand’s Olympic and FIFA Women’s World Cup teams, is representing her home country at the Cyprus Women’s Cup. The tournament began Monday and runs through March 14 in Cyprus.
Former UT star and all-time assist leader Rhian Wilkinson, who helped her team earn bronze at the 2012 Olympics, is playing for Canada.
Commit Recognition: Lady Vols commitment Katie Cousins, a sophomore at Jefferson Forest High School in Lynchburg, Va., was selected to the U.S, Soccer Under-20 Women’s National Team.
Matthew Reagan is a freelance contributor.