Soccer team starts NCAA play Friday

The Tennessee Lady Volunteer soccer team takes on the University of Alabama at Birmingham in NCAA Division I Women's Soccer Tournament first round action at 8 p.m. EST on Friday at the Regal Soccer Stadium.

That matchup follows the Duke/Louisville contest, which will open the Knoxville portion of the tourney at 5:30 p.m. EST. The winners will meet on Sunday at 2 p.m. to determine who will advance into the regional semifinals.

The Orange and White enter Friday's match with an 11-6-3 overall record after bowing out in the semifinals of the Southeastern Conference Tournament. One of three ranked teams from the SEC, UT currently stands at No. 23 in the latest poll after receiving a No. 4 regional seed in this year's tournament, the sixth straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

The Lady Vols' offense proved to be stellar during SEC play this year, tying for first in the conference in goals and second in shots during league contests this year. Sophomore forward Kylee Rossi, the 2006 SEC Offensive Player of the Year, ranks fifth in the conference stat rankings with her 22 points and nine goals overall. Senior midfielder Ali Christoph, a first-team ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District IV recipient, stands in a tie for fifth overall with six assists on the year.

Tennessee's defense remained among the top units in the league again, ranking fourth overall among SEC squads with its 10.25 shots allowed per outing and 4.65 shots on goal allowed per match. Senior defender Jenny Jeffers was once again selected to one of five Top Drawer Soccer Teams of the Season, earning second-team accolades after third-team recognition in 2005.

UAB won the Conference USA Tournament title last weekend in Dallas, Texas, by upsetting Colorado College in the final, 3-2, to claim its second tourney crown in three years. One of three teams in the national draw with an under-.500 record, the Blazers are competing in just their second national draw, with the first coming in 2004. The Green and Gold rely on junior forward Sally Palmer for scoring, as she has compiled 41 percent (9 of 22) of their team goals.

The two programs have met just once before, with that matchup coming in Knoxville in the second round of the 2004 NCAA Tournament. Tennessee got the win that day, 1-0, to move into its third consecutive NCAA "Sweet 16." The Lady Vols and Blazers had two common opponents in 2006, Alabama and Vanderbilt. Tennessee went 2-0 against its conference foes, while UAB lost to the Commodores, 2-0, after downing in-state rival Alabama in double overtime, 1-0, behind Palmer's first goal of the year.

UT holds a 6-0 mark during NCAA Tournament games in Knoxville. The Lady Vols swept through opening weekends in 2002, 2003 and 2004, with former standout goalkeeper Vanessa Phillips-Bosshart collecting clean sheets in the final four of those.

Gametracker live stats will be available for all first and second round games during the NCAA Tournament at, while the links will also be live on

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