The University of Memphis women’s soccer team continued their start to their spring schedule with a narrow 2-1 defeat to the 2018 SEC Champions Vanderbilt last Sunday. While the full-time score doesn’t show this, the Tigers displayed a stronger offensive approach throughout most of the match, but what hurt them in the end was the opening 15 minutes of the match.
“We put ourselves in a bind in the first 15 minutes,” said Brooks Monaghan, the head coach. “We weren’t playing as a team and weren’t ready to go. We got a lot of young players and obviously lost a lot of horses last year (seniors), and we asked them to play a lot of minutes. It was really their first true college game other than playing a couple minutes here and there.”
Note: The game was divided into three 30-minute parts with a small break in between instead of the traditional 45-minute halves.
Memphis started with a 4-4-2 formation as it looked to experiment with the lineup after losing a dominant senior class. The ball found the back of the net early for the Commodores as they shocked the reigning American Athletic Conference tournament champions in the opening minutes. Not long after, Elizabeth Moberg faced a 1v1 against a Vanderbilt forward and made a diving save, but she didn’t get enough on it as the opposing player got the rebound and finished in front of the goal.
The Tigers became more active afterward with strong looks on goal. Clarissa Larisey got the ball inside the 18-yard box after a nice build up but sent the ball over the woodworks. Claire Abrey and Samantha Murphy created mayhem in front of the goal with many deflections of the ball, but the referee ultimately blew a whistle calling for a Memphis handball.
“I think were a bit scared at the beginning,” Larisey said on the first 15 minutes of action. “The SEC is a great conference, and we’ve played them before in preseason, and they won against us.”
Vanderbilt came out strong gaining the most possession and controlled the midfield but soon came to a close with the Tigers getting physical. The Commodores gave up a free kick in their own half, which nearly led to a Memphis goal, but it hit the post. The ball was still in play near the goal, but Vanderbilt cleared it out of danger.
Stasia Mallin also created a chance for the home team on the right flank as she beat a defender, but her shot went over the goal.
The Tigers again started off sluggish, letting the Commodores control the final part of the game even after getting a mouthful from Monaghan during the final break. Memphis soon after started winning the ball back in the midfield, which changed the momentum.
After a defensive stop in their own half, a pinpoint cross to Larisey led to a 1v1 with the Vanderbilt goalie and the Tigers were on the scoreboard. There was a clash between the players during the play and Larisey was down for a minute, but she fought on looking for an equalizer.
“The rest of the 75 minutes, the passing was great, we were moving the ball quick and getting through balls.” Larisey said about their play in the remainder of the game. “I think it all I clicked, and we started having more confidence as soon as we started passing and moving more.”
Memphis continued to be threatening to finish the game, but the Commodores held their own to win the match.
“It was a great match,” Monaghan said. “You always play to win, but in spring you don’t get caught up in the results. I think we learned a lot from today and that’s what it’s about.”
The Tigers now look ahead for another SEC matchup against Mississippi State in their six-game spring schedule. Kick-off is set for 3 p.m. Sunday at the Billy J. Murphy Track and Soccer Complex.