Lady Vols soccer take the SEC championship

The Tennessee Lady Vols soccer squad defeated Florida 2-1 to take the 2002 SEC championship.

With the clock winding down in the second 10-minute overtime session in the Southeastern Conference Tournament final on Sunday afternoon, Lady Vol sophomore Keeley Dowling (Carmel, Ind.) headed in a cross at 108:58 to propel 13th-ranked Tennessee to a 2-1 decision over Florida. The six-time defending champion Gators (10-10-2) had never been defeated in the league's showcase event, while the Orange and White had been winless in five previous appearances until this season. Head Coach Angela Kelly's club posted three one-goal decisions over Eastern Division opponents to claim the title: Georgia (1-0), Kentucky (1-0 in overtime) and today UF. With the triumph, Tennessee (16-5-1) earned the SEC's automatic berth into the 64-team NCAA Tournament field and extended its unbeaten skein to seven outings.

The winning play developed following a Florida foul to the left of senior goalkeeper Jordan Kellgren. Sophomore Sue Flamini (Cranford, N.J.) arched a looping cross into the box that her teammate was able to ricochet in off her head for the Golden Goal. Dowling's first career overtime-winner was her third goal of '02 and enabled UT to win its fourth straight overtime affair. The Lady Vols out-shot the Gators by a commanding 28-5 margin in the contest, but were stymied repeatedly by the First Team All-SEC net-minder, who was also chosen as the Tournament's Most Valuable Player.

"I'm extremely proud of my team, they gave 100 percent effort all afternoon," said Kelly. "Even though we faced a 1-0 deficit, I felt confident that we could come through in the second half. A lot of credit goes to Florida, they had never lost a game in the SEC Tournament and the sign of a true champion is never giving up. I am very pleased that we came out on the winning end."

Despite totaling one shot over the match's first 71 minutes, Florida certainly made the attempt count. Freshman Candace Rivers sent a pass from the right flank of the midfield to junior Crystal Frimpong, who let the ball bounce once before heading it over the reach of Lady Vol senior goalie Ellen Dean (Memphis, Tenn.) at 8:41 for her sixth score of the season. The Orange and White could not capitalize on several opportunities to tally the equalizer before the break.

Dowling slammed a shot off the crossbar at 23:01 and then Kellgren stoned UT junior Rhian Wilkinson (Baie d'Urfe, Quebec) at point-blank range 30 seconds later. After Flamini hit one flush off the bar at 25:56, Wilkinson had another chance that was saved by Florida senior defender Danielle Murphy. Dowling later had another sparkling opportunity for a goal denied on a spectacular save by Kellgren with 2:52 until the intermission. At the half, Tennessee had out-shot UF, 9-1.

As the Lady Volunteers pressed for the tying goal, the team's efforts finally paid off at 77:25, when senior Jen Laughridge (Wilson, N.C.) re-directed a deflect cross past Kellgren to square the contest at a goal apiece. Laughridge's sixth goal of the campaign came off Patrick's ninth assist of the season.

Tennessee controlled the majority of play before the end of regulation, although Murphy had an attempt that was cleared away by a Lady Vol defender at 79:52. Kelly's team had four shots in the first sudden-victory period and had four more chances in the second 10-minute session before Dowling's Golden Goal. All-tourney selections for Tennessee were Dowling, Laughridge and Wilkinson.

Soccer sidenotes:
Tennessee women to host first two rounds of NCAA Tourney

After claiming its first Southeastern Conference Tournament title with a 2-1 overtime win over Florida yesterday, the 11th-ranked Lady Vol soccer team learned that it will be hosting the first and second rounds of the 2002 NCAA Women's Soccer Tournament this weekend. The 64-team field was announced on Monday afternoon on ESPNEWS.

Head coach Angela Kelly's squad, 16-5-1 overall, will welcome Southern Conference Tourney Champion Furman University (16-5-1) in first-round action on Friday night at 8 p.m. The victor of the match between the Lady Vols and the Lady Paladins will encounter either Conference USA Tourney winner Cincinnati (16-3-3) or at-large recipient Kentucky (11-8) on Sunday afternoon at two o'clock. The Bearcats and Wildcats will tangle at 5:30 p.m. on Friday at the UT Soccer Complex.

Lady Vols pull highest ranking in UT soccer history

Notching one-goal victories over Georgia, Kentucky and Florida en route to its first Southeastern Conference Tournament crown boosted the Lady Vol soccer team to new heights in the rankings released on Monday afternoon by Soccer America and the National Soccer Coaches Association of America/adidas. Head Coach Angela Kelly's club, now 16-5-1 overall entering the NCAA Tournament, climbed two rungs to 11th in the coaches' ratings and jumped four spots from 16th to 12th in Soccer America's version of the Top 25. The Orange is riding a season-high seven-match unbeaten streak dating back to an overtime setback to UF on Oct. 18 in the Swamp.

Pacific-10 Conference champion Stanford is the No. 1 team in Soccer America's final Top 25 rankings for the 2002 college women's soccer season. The Cardinal, in the top spot the past five weeks and six of the past seven, completed a perfect Pac-10 campaign on Sunday, going 9-0-0 and surrendering only one goal.

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