Rolling on the Road: Soccer takes on Tennessee in first conference road test

Will Miller, Staff Reporter

The No. 6 Alabama soccer team has gone undefeated for eight straight matches.  

The Crimson Tide (8-1-1) will now travel to face the team picked to win the SEC in 2022. In advance of the matchup, Alabama has achieved the highest ranking in program history. 

The Tennessee Volunteers (5-2-1) are riding a streak of their own at five straight wins. Alabama has four straight victories after a draw with Utah on Sept. 4.  

Tennessee is also the defending conference champion. 

The Crimson Tide’s last match was a clinic in both halves, a 6-0 beatdown over Chattanooga in its final challenge before conference play. Alabama started the scoring in the 17th minute, split three goals in each half and did not look back, also limiting the Mocs to a whopping total of zero shots in the full 90 minutes of play. 

The Volunteers are a match removed from beating Florida 2-1 in Gainesville. They never trailed, collecting the two scores in the first half and retaining the lead all the way to the victory. During the ongoing winning streak, Tennessee has outscored opponents 24-1. 

Both teams are now 1-0 in the conference. Alabama toppled then-No. 5 South Carolina in Tuscaloosa before facing the Mocs.  

If nothing else, the Crimson Tide is facing an offensive unit that is firing on all cylinders. Nothing less than a defensive A-game will get the job done. Head coach Wes Hart, for one, is confident in his defense. That side of the ball has made things difficult for top-flight units all across the nation. 

“I think we’ve done a great job of preventing teams from having much of the ball in and around our goal, but then, when they have, our defenders have done an incredible job of blocking shots, blocking crosses, our goalkeeper when she’s been called upon has made big saves,” Hart said. “McKinley Crone has made the saves we need her to make.” 

Hart also highlighted defender Sasha Pickard, calling her one of the most underrated center backs in the country.  

“She doesn’t get a lot of love from the press but when she’s on your team, the amount of shots she blocks, the amount of balls that she wins, the amount of pressure she puts on opposing attackers — she is an animal,” Hart said. 

The six goals Alabama scored against Chattanooga is a season high. Tennessee’s high came in a 7-0 shutout of Tennessee Tech on Sept. 4. The Crimson Tide has amassed six shutouts this season.  

Crimson Tide forward Riley Mattingly Parker has netted seven goals during the 2022 campaign. She is expected to be a key player if Alabama is to get its fourth road win of the fall. 

“Every single SEC team that we’re going to play this season, I can think about a rough game that we’ve had in the past,” Mattingly Parker said. “[We’re motivated] for every game. But Thursday is just going to be another opportunity for us to make a statement win, and hopefully put us in the conversation [at the top].” 

It will take more than just Mattingly Parker finding the back of the net for the Crimson Tide to win, and the rest of the group appears up for it — six different players scored against Chattanooga. Captain Kat Rogers also had three assists in the match.  

Rogers said the team is at the right balance of being confident and hungry. 

Kickoff from Regal Soccer Stadium in Knoxville will be Thursday, Sept. 22 at 5 p.m. CT on SEC Network+.

Questions or comments? Email Austin Hannon (Sports Editor) at [email protected]