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Tennessee defeats Bama in opening round

2797 days ago
Sean Cartell | SEC

ORANGE BEACH, Ala. -- Tennessee head coach Brian Pensky feels that the teams that have the most success are the ones in which the players take ownership of the squad's success.

That mentality was evident on Monday in the opening round of the 2014 Southeastern Conference Soccer Tournament when the 10th-seeded Volunteers overcame a 2-0 deficit to defeat seventh-seeded Alabama, 3-2, at the Orange Beach SportsPlex.

"Our team's backs have been against the wall for a couple of weeks now," Pensky said. "We really feel like we're a good team and our kids don't want the season to end. The last couple of weeks, our kids have taken absolute, total ownership of this group and they are making great things happen."

The Crimson Tide took a 1-0 advantage into the locker room at intermission after a 17th-minute goal by Ally Ocon. Alabama extended its lead to 2-0 following a goal by Theresa Diederich off of an assist from Laura Lee Smith in the 52nd minute.

Tennessee responded less than three minutes later with Hannah Wilkinson's seventh goal of the season. The Volunteers knotted the score at 2-2 when Michele Christy scored her first goal of the season off a set piece in the 67th minute.

In the 81st minute, Amy Neal headed in her seventh goal of the season off an assist from Christy to score the eventual game-winner for Tennessee.

"I just went for the opportunity," Neal said. "I saw Michele and I know where she puts the ball, so I just ran straight towards the goalie. We played like this was our last game of the season, we pulled it out and now we have another chance."

Shots were even among the two teams in the match, with each squad attempting 14 shots. Tennessee goalkeeper Jamie Simmons finished with eight saves, while Alabama's Emily Rusk had six saves.

Tennessee (10-9-1) advances to face second-seeded Florida on Wednesday at 12 p.m. CT in a match televised on the SEC Network.

Alabama drops to 10-7-3 with the loss.

"It doesn't get any harder than that as far as having a heartbreaking finish," Alabama head coach Todd Bramble said. "To be up 2-0 in the game and then, in just a matter of minutes, for it all to go wrong for you, it's really painful. My heart is broken for our seniors right now who didn't get a chance to advance in this tournament."