Kylee Rossi's record goal secures OT win

On the strength of junior forward Kylee Rossi's program record-breaking 30th career goal, the Tennessee women's soccer team earned a spot in the NCAA "Sweet 16" with a 1-0 double overtime victory over Clemson on Sunday.

The Lady Vols improve to 15-4-2 overall and advance to the Sweet 16 for the fifth time in program history.

"I think today was a great battle," UT Head Coach Angela Kelly said. "Clemson is a talented, well-seasoned team. I think that the conference they play in (ACC), there's nothing they haven't seen. It was back-and-forth all day."

The match-winner came in the 104th minute after junior goalkeeper Jaimel Johnson found sophomore forward Mick Imgram on the right side. Imgram then fed Rossi in the penalty box, where she settled the ball before ripping a shot past the outstretched arms of the diving Clemson senior goalkeeper, Ashley Phillips, and into the upper left corner of the net.

The goal is Rossi's 12th of the season, giving her 30 points on the year. With the score the Pennington, N.J., native is now the career record holder in goals, game-winners and golden goals. Rossi pushed past Lady Vol greats Keeley Dowling (2001-04) and Rhian Wilkinson (2000-03) with her fourth career golden goal and topped Kayla Lockaby's (2001-04) match-winners mark with the 12th of her career.

"I think it's a great honor [to break the UT career goal record], but the honor has to go to my whole team, because I can't do it by myself," Rossi said. "I am so blessed to have the talent I have, and to have the teammates I have. I'm not going to be able to score if they don't give me the ball. I try to do the same for them. I think we all work so well together."

Imgram posted her team-leading seventh assist of the season, a new career high. The Clifton, Va., native notched her first assist since Oct. 19. The assist for Johnson is her second of the season.

In the scoreless first half, the Lady Vols out-shot the Tigers 8-5. Both teams had several good scoring opportunities but neither could find the back of the net. Johnson made two saves in the first half, while Phillips made three.

The two squads came out of the halftime break with new energy, combining for five shots on goal in the second 45 minutes. The Orange and White put the pressure on the Clemson backline, forcing junior defensive anchor Molly Johnson to step up to hold UT to eight shots in the second half. Phillips matched her first half output with three saves in the second frame.

"Number 21 [Molly Johnson] and their backline did a great job of closing the middle when we had a chance to get forward," Kelly said.

The Lady Vol defense also had a tough task, but met the challenge, holding the Tigers to just three shots; however, two of those were on goal. Johnson made both saves, including one on a shot from senior midfielder Courtney Foster in the final 10 minutes of regulation.

"I think, as a whole, the entire team worked together to contribute, so I don't really give myself the shutout," Johnson said. "It's more of a team shutout, because without the four players on defense playing in front of me, I wouldn't have had the shutout."

From there, Johnson needed just one save to earn her 10th solo shutout of the season. Though UT took two shots in the first overtime, just one required a save from Phillips. The Tigers took two shots in the initial period of extra time, but neither was on frame.

"It was just one of those performances that was incredibly gutsy by (our) players," Clemson Head Coach Todd Bramble said. "We were just showing a tremendous amount of character, grit, fight and determination. It was tough to figure out how we would get a goal. We're so good defensively and have such a great goaltender, I didn't think we would concede a goal. I felt the game would eventually go to penalty kicks."

In her final match for Clemson, Phillips made eight saves while facing 20 total Tennessee shots. Johnson notched five saves on the Tigers' 12 total strikes. Foster led Clemson, putting each of her three shots on frame.

Five of Rossi's team-leading nine shots were on goal. The nine shots also pushed Rossi to the top of the Tennessee record books in career shots with 241. Rossi passed former Lady Vol Lyndsey Patterson (2001-04) with the shot on the game-winner.

Tennessee remains undefeated at home this season with the win, improving to 9-0-0 at Regal Soccer Stadium during the 2007 campaign. The Lady Vols advance to the Sweet 16 for the second straight season.

The win marks UT's second over an ACC team this season and first in the NCAA Tournament. With the victory, the Big Orange notched its first NCAA Tournament overtime win. Tennessee is now 27-11-16 all-time in matches that go to overtime.

"It's always tough to lose in overtime when both teams have battled so hard," Kelly said. "Obviously, I'm very grateful for the win, but I know how tough it is to be on Clemson's side. I'd like to congratulate them on such a hard battle and such a great season."

The Orange and White will face second-seeded Portland in the third round. The match is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 24 at the Pilots' Merlo Field in Portland, Ore. More details on the game time and location will be available later.

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