AU women’s soccer loses sixth consecutive game

The Eagles fell 3-0 to the overwhelming force of the University of Tennessee

AU women’s soccer loses sixth consecutive game

Junior forward Kaylee Hillard's clearance attempt is contested by Tennessee freshman Maya Neal during the Eagles 3-0 loss to the Volunteers Sunday at Reeves Field

For every AU cheer coming from the back of Reeves Field on Sunday afternoon, the Tennessee fans cheered louder. With organized chants, foot stomping and deafening yells, the Vols fans celebrated loudly as their team earned an easy 3-0 non-conference win against the Eagles.

AU, outmatched from nearly the very beginning, never stopped fighting though. Despite the team’s loss and only getting a single shot on goal during the entire game, head coach Anabel Hering remained positive about the team’s strengths.

“You know, we’ve kind of realized that we have a lot in our arsenal, we are not just a possession team and not just technical,” Hering said. “We had a hard-nosed performance today which we haven’t really seen in the past. We can be hard-nosed, and we can be technical, and we can play long and direct, but we have a big spectrum of how we can play, which is nice.”

The Eagles managed to hold Tennesse, a strong SEC opponent with a two-time Olympian on the roster, scoreless for the first ten minutes before Tennessee sophomore Rylie O’Keefe connected on assists from grad student Hannah Wilkinson and senior Anna McClung and snuck the ball past AU freshman goalkeeper Amy Krotine.

O’Keefe also added an assist later in the game when her corner kick was knocked in off a header from sophomore Anna Bialczak. The goal came just seconds after AU senior defender Megan O’Keefe was helped off the field with what coach Hering said has been confirmed by the trainers as a concussion.

“She got hit pretty hard and went down so I think the consensus was our trainer said she has a concussion,” Hering said.

AU senior defender Danielle Krachie replaced Megan O’Keefe, but the Eagles struggled to hold off the Volunteers. Thirteen minutes into the second half, Tennessee scored again, this time on a breakaway by redshirt freshman Maya Neal who took a pass from Wilkinson, deked past Krotine and sent the ball sailing in the net.

Wilkinson, who represented New Zealand in the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games, joined Rylie O’Keefe as the second Vol to earn a multi-point game against the Eagles.

Before the game against the Volunteers, Hering said she told her team that if they rally behind each other and play as a group, the Eagles can find success as the season continues.

“It wasn’t a big talk, I kind of just talked about them playing for each other and each other’s back, and playing with pride in our school and just working together on both sides of the ball, attacking wise, offensively,” Hering said. “And when you are all working together, I think that we can perform better and be successful.”

AU’s next test will come on Thursday as the Eagles host Longwood University at 4 p.m. on Reeves Field. While the team will continue to search for another win, a losing streak early in the season is not uncommon for the Eagles.

In the last three years, the team has never started the seventh game of the season with more than two wins, and this year will be no different. Though the Eagles have an added challenge this season as the team is playing with the largest freshman class they’ve had in the last five years, Hering said the young group does not dramatically affect team strategy for the year.

“We put trust in them and we see them recruiting, and we know what we they can do and what their capability is, and we are still kind of building their game fitness,” Hering said. “But I think right now we are in a good spot. Today was pretty good.”

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