COLUMBIA, S.C. - The Vanderbilt Commodores (13-7-2) best season in over a decade came to a close Friday afternoon after a 3-1 defeat to Santa Clara in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Following the game, head coach Darren Ambrose couldn't have been prouder of this group with the effort they gave throughout the season.
"I'm very proud of our team this year," said Ambrose. "It's disappointing anytime you lose, but to feel like you came kind of close but then bow out at this point is kind of disappointing. Credit to Santa Clara, they were very good and very, very organized... Really proud of our kids this year, they've done a great job."
To begin the match, most of the possession in the first 15 minutes stayed in the middle of the field as both teams got a feel for the game.
The Broncos would get a chance in the 18th minute and looked to take advantage. Kat Uhl had a run up the left side and beat the Commodore defenders into the box. She sent a cross to Maddy Gonzalez who volleyed it towards the far post for the opening goal of the match.
With 10 minutes remaining in the first half, the Commodores took possession of the ball deep in their attacking half. Paola Ellis sent a pass towards the top of the box to Leila Azari who sent a cross towards the far post. Madison Elwell came streaking in and volleyed it into the net for her first career goal to tie the game 1-1.
Less than a minute later, Santa Clara took the first possession following the goal into their attacking half and Maddy Gonzalez got the ball just outside the box. She turned to her left and fired a shot towards the near post to regain the lead for the Broncos.
The Broncos took the 2-1 lead into the half as the Dores looked to readjust and tie the match once again.
In the second half, the Broncos added to their lead in the 48th minute. Maria Sanchez created some space on a run into their attacking third. She took a shot from 20 yards out towards the far post and into the net to give Santa Clara a 3-1 lead.
The Dores tried to push forward the rest of the half in hopes of getting the match level but were unable to get behind the Bronco defense. They had a few opportunities but couldn't make anything of them as the clock ticked down to zero on the season.
Vanderbilt finishes the 2017 campaign with 13 wins, the most since the 2005 season and that is just one of the many feats the team achieved this year. They finished fourth in the SEC, the Dores best finish since they got rid of divisions in 2009. Down in Orange Beach, they made it to the semifinals of the SEC Tournament for the first time in over a decade. The Commodores then received their first NCAA tournament berth since 2006.
The seven seniors capped off their Commodore careers with the first NCAA tournament win the school has had since 1998. The senior class accomplished so much on and off the field during their time at Vanderbilt and helped build the program to where it is today.
"I think that this has been a coming out year for our program and those kids have had an awful lot to do with it," stated Ambrose. "I am incredibly grateful for what they've done for our program and how they have elevated it nationally."