Vols advance with win over Rebels
ORANGE BEACH, Ala. -- No. 7 seed Tennessee scored less than a minute into the game and never looked back in a 2-0 victory over No. 10 seed Ole Miss in the first round of the SEC Tournament on Monday afternoon in Orange Beach, Ala.
The Volunteers scored their quickest goal of the season to go up 1-0 just 45 seconds into the game. Mackenzie Gouner sprung Hannah Wilkinson free in the box with a good ball over the top of the defense and the New Zealand native calmly chipped Ole Miss goalkeeper Marnie Merritt for her 11th goal of the season.
The quick start didn't deflate the Rebels, however, as they generated a handful of quality chances throughout the game. Ole Miss outshot Tennessee, 9-4, in the opening 45 minutes but had just three shots on target. UT had the upper hand in corner kicks with four compared to just two for the Rebels and went to the break leading 1-0.
Ole Miss continued to press early in the second half and nearly pulled level on multiple occasions. A great defensive play by Rylie O'Keefe denied a sure goal for the Rebels in the 55th minute. The second-team All-SEC selection made a perfect slide tackle to dispossess Ole Miss forward Gabby Little in front of a wide-open net in the 55th minute. Wilkinson had a couple of half chances for Tennessee minutes later, but sent one over the crossbar and another wide.
The Vols survived another close call in the 68th minute when Shae Yanez made an incredible save from point-blank range on CeCe Kizer before the rebound attempt hit off the bottom of the crossbar. Yanez was stellar on the night, making six saves to record her third solo shutout of the season.
After weathering the storm by Ole Miss, Carlyn Baldwin put the game on ice for the Volunteers by converting a penalty kick in the 82nd minute. Ariel Kupritz drew the call after being taken down in the box on a breakaway by the Rebels' goalkeeper, who was shown a red card on the play. Baldwin calmly slotted the penalty kick home to the lower left corner to give Tennessee a 2-0 lead.
Ole Miss finished with a 19-13 shot advantage but only had a 6-5 edge in shots on goal. Gretchen Harknett led all players with five shots for the afternoon. The victory helped Tennessee improve to 15-12-5 all-time in SEC Tournament games and 2-1-2 under Brian Pensky. The Vols almost remained unbeaten this season when leading at halftime, improving to 8-0.
With the win, the Big Orange advance to the SEC Tournament quarterfinals for a rematch with No. 2 seed Auburn. The Vols will try to avenge a 3-1 loss to the Tigers last Thursday in their regular-season finale. UT and Auburn will square off on Wednesday at 1 p.m. ET on the SEC Network.