Lady Vol soccer advances in SEC tourney

ORANGE BEACH, Ala. – Behind a dominant second half performance on Wednesday at the Orange Beach Soccer Complex No. 23 Tennessee (15-5) topped sixth-seeded Kentucky (13-7), 2-1, to advance to Friday's semifinal round against Auburn.

Senior forward Chelsea Hatcher registered the match-winner at the 76:07 mark off a free kick from the right wing, marking the Cincinnati, Ohio, native's fifth score of the campaign.

Senior forward Emily Dowd was credited with her team-leading 12th goal to dead-lock the count, 1-1, at 12:09. Junior midfielder Kylie Bono picked up her seventh assist of 2011 with a tap on the ball prior to Hatcher's winning drive on frame. UT rookie net minder Julie Eckel made four saves between the pipes in helping the Big Orange to its 15th triumph.

For the match Tennessee out-shot the Wildcats by a 16-13 count and by a commanding 10-2 over the final 45 minutes of play.

"It was a battle, and we knew that," Lady Vol Head Coach Angela Kelly said. "It was in the air a lot, and we needed to make sure that we continued to play the way that we know how to play and not allow anything to disrupt that. Credit to Kentucky, it's always a battle.

"I was pleased with a great individual performance by Emily Dowd in the first half. You saw a collective team effort in the second half, and that's what we're all about at Tennessee. For that second half, I'm proud of the team."

Kentucky's offense had the best of the early going with the top chance over the opening five minutes coming off a long free kick from about 40 yards out on the right wing. The cross traveled to the left post where UK's marked forward Arin Gilliland managed a sliding try at 4:48 that drifted just wide of frame.

The Wildcats finally managed to break in front at the 10:41 mark. In some space Kentucky forward Kelsey Hunyadi fired a drive from just outside the 18-yard box on the right wing that beat a diving Eckel inside the left post for a 1-0 lead.

The Blue & White's advantage lasted all of 1:28 as Dowd re-paid the favor from 18 yards out on the other end. After dribbling briefly up the middle of the pitch, the Gainesville, Fla., native unleashed a low roller that beat Kayla Price at 12:09, nestling into the lower left corner to dead-lock the count at 1-1.

With the Big Orange ramping up the possession in UK's end, the ‘Cats forced Eckel into action during the 25th minute. Hunyadi fired off a shot from the right side that was saved by the UT net minder. The Cordova, Tenn., native quickly covered a rebound to keep Kentucky from any follow-up opportunity.

Off a long ball in towards the left post, Kentucky midfielder Natalie Horner just missed on a header over the top of the crossbar at 33:29.

From virtually the same spot that Dowd scored from earlier in the half, senior midfielder Emily Shore nearly conducted a replay of the goal during the 36th minute, but her low shot traveled just outside the left upright.

At 40:44 the ‘Cats had another golden chance go awry as Molly Huber launched a drive that was initially saved by Eckel. The rebound escaped from UT's net minder, however, but a follow-up try by Huber from approximately 10 yards out hit off the left upright before being cleared away from danger.

The Big Orange registered the initial scoring chance in the second stanza, following a foul drawn by sophomore forward Caroline Brown, off a free kick just outside the right of the 18 at 50:20. Hatcher delivered in a cross into the middle that ricocheted outside the top of the box. Sophomore defender Caroline Capocaccia drilled a low shot that hit off a Kentucky body out front before being cleared away.

With the majority of the first 20+ minutes of the final half contested over the valuable midfield, UK forward Caitlin Landis nearly gave the Wildcats a lead at 69:15. Her shot from out on the left wing went through the hands of a leaping Eckel, but a UT defender fought off a Kentucky offensive player to prevent a point-blank chance on an open net.

After a couple of solid attempts by Lady Vol freshman Lexi Krause, including one that forced a stop by Price, Tennessee finally grabbed its first lead of the match at 76:07 off a free kick. Bono touched the ball briefly on a leap over move before Hatcher drove a shot through the UK wall and into the twine for a 2-1 advantage.

Down the stretch the Big Orange kept Kentucky from posting any real scoring opportunities. In fact, the only chances UK had occurred on a corner kick at 83:05, that resulted in zero shots, and an ambitious drive from 24 yards out on the right wing from forward Caitlin Landis with eight seconds left that traveled well high of frame.

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