For the first time in five years, head coach Brian Pensky and the No. 18 ranked Tennessee Volunteers soccer team are in the NCAA Tournament. The Volunteers (14-4-1) will host the Murray State Racers (15-1-2) at Regal Soccer Stadium on Saturday at 5 p.m. ET.
Tennessee waltzes into its matchup with the Racers coming off a loss to the Vanderbilt Commodores in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament last week. The Volunteers lost despite an overwhelming 21-2 shot advantage over the Commodores. A penalty kick in the 49th minute from Stephanie Amack gave Vanderbilt a 1-0 lead, and Tennessee was unable to pull off the comeback. The Vols hit the crossbar five times in the loss, and were led by forward Khadija “Bunny” Shaw who had five shots.
Despite leading Vandy in every facet of the game, Pensky and Tennessee lost its second straight trip to the SEC Tournament quarterfinals. However, the Vols still received an at-large bid with their best record since 2012.
Murray State is travelling to Knoxville with a chip on its shoulder, the Racers won the OVC Championship and had four players on the 2017 All-Conference team. In their last time out, Murray State captured a 1-0 win over Eastern Kentucky to be crowned conference champions. The Racers won the match on a golden goal in the 93rd minute from forward Miyah Watford. Forward Harriet Withers sent in the game-winning cross, which was Murray State’s first goal off a corner in over 100 attempts.
The Racers made their first NCAA Tournament debut in 2009 with a 2-0 loss to Virginia Tech, and they made their first appearance under head coach Jeremy Groves in 2015. Watford was listed as the MVP of the OVC All-Tournament team with two game-winning goals for Murray State in the tournament.
Tennessee ranks No. 20 in RPI in 2017, while the Racers follow closely behind them at No. 21. Murray State and the Volunteers have met just three times ever, with 2015 being the most recent meeting. Tennessee beat the Racers 3-0 in 2015, and lead the all-time series 2-0.
The Lady Vols will be making their 11th NCAA Tournament appearance since 2001, and have made it past the second round just five times in school history. Tennessee has only hosted 12 NCAA Tournament games, which they have a 7-2-1 record in.
Featured image courtesy of UT Sports
Edited by Ben McKee