Soccer team falls in Sweet 16

PORTLAND, Ore. – In front of a crowd of 4,841 at Portland's Merlo Field, the Tennessee women's soccer team saw its season come to an end in the Third Round of the NCAA Tournament. The Pilots recorded a 3-0 win to advance to the Elite Eight.

The Orange and White finish the season with a 15-5-2 record overall.

"I just want to congratulate Portland," UT Head Coach Angela Kelly said. "I think that, dating back to my days as a player, this is the most dynamic, attacking squad from the Portland side that I've every seen. ... I would be shocked if they don't win the national championship this year."

Portland got on the board first in the 16th minute, getting a goal from sophomore forward and leading scorer Michelle Enyeart. After winning the ball on the right side of the field, freshman Sophie Schmidt fed Enyeart in the box, where she beat Tennessee junior keeper Jaimel Johnson on the ground.

The Pilots' second goal came just two minutes later, when Schmidt had a shot saved by Johnson which slipped out of her hands. Senior defender Erica Griffin made a clear attempt in the box, but Portland senior midfielder Natalie Budge got in the way and the ball bounced off Budge and into the goal.

"They're very sophisticated," Kelly said. "They definitely take advantage and punish you for your mistakes. They have a lot of world-class players and it was evident."

The Pilots began the game at a frantic pace, controlling possession and taking 13 shots, 10 of which were on goal, in the first 23 minutes of play. The Lady Vols took three shots, putting just one on frame in the first half.

"(Portland's) rhythm and pace at the beginning of the game made a difference," Kelly said. "As soon as they got that one goal, it was like they drew blood and they wanted more."

Tennessee's best chance of the half came in the 41st minute when junior forward Kylee Rossi found herself with the ball in the box after a defensive miscue by Portland. Rossi ripped a shot from 15 yards, but sent it sailing high over the crossbar.

Sophomore midfielder Mick Imgram notched UT's only shot on goal in the first 45 minutes, forcing Pilots keeper Kelsey Davis to make a save on a free kick from 40 yards out.

Despite giving up two goals, Johnson and the backline were the difference between the 2-0 lead and a 5-0 Pilots lead in the first half. Johnson made nine saves in the first 45 minutes, including two kick saves on shots from inside 10 yards. The defense also made one save of its own and blocked several Pilot shots.

Portland came out of the locker rooms with the same energy, finding the back of the net just over one minute into the second frame. Senior defender Stephanie Lopez found Enyeart at the top of the box where she ripped a shot past Johnson for her second score of the match.

Following the Pilot goal, Tennessee stepped up, sending more players forward and creating several chances in the second half. After earning their first corner of the match in the 61st minute, the Lady Vols got two of their best opportunities of the match off the next two corner kicks.

"I'm very, very proud of my team," Kelly said. "I wouldn't trade any of (our players) for the world. They competed and they had a great mentality and that's all I asked for. They were just out-classed today by, in my opinion, one of the best, if not the best, teams in the country."

The first chance came in the 66th minute, when freshman forward Devon Swaim sent a ball in from the right corner which nearly curled into the goal had it not been for the jumping save by Davis, putting the ball over the crossbar.

The subsequent corner saw Swaim put another great ball into the box which found Rossi's head about six yards out. The resulting header forced Davis to make yet another jumping save, pushing the ball up and over the crossbar.

Though she allowed the third goal early in the half, Johnson continued her impressive performance through the final 45 minutes. The Dayton, Ohio, native faced another eight Portland shots in the second frame, making three saves.

"If the ball gets past the defense then it's my job to come up with the save," Johnson said.

The junior made 12 total saves in the match, setting a new career high and matching the third-best performance in program history in a single match by a UT goalkeeper. Johnson's biggest save of the second half came one-on-one with Portland freshman midfielder Elli Reed from eight yards which she stopped and pushed up and over the crossbar.

"(Jaimel's) a tremendous goalkeeper," Kelly said. "The athleticism she brings to the table, her competitive ability and her ability to distribute are all very high. Her shot-stopping ability, in my opinion, is the best in the country."

The loss marks the fifth time in the last six seasons that the Lady Vols have ended their season in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. The Orange and White are now 10-6-2 all time in the NCAA Tournament.

Portland moves on to face the lone No. 1 seed remaining in the NCAA Tournament in UCLA for a berth in the College Cup.


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