No. 3 Alabama beats Vanderbilt, moves to SEC tournament final for first time since 1995


Courtesy of UA Athletics

Alabama defender Brooke Steere (3) and the rest of the Crimson Tide soccer team take a selfie after defeating the Vanderbilt Commodores 2-1 in the SEC Tournament semfinals on Nov. 3 at Ashton Brosnaham Soccer Complex in Pensacola, Fla.

Will Miller, Staff Reporter

The No. 3 Alabama soccer team gets the best out of every opponent. The Vanderbilt Commodores were no exception on Thursday. The Crimson Tide used two goals from Riley Mattingly Parker, including a score in the final minute, to win 2-1 and move to the championship round of the conference tournament. 

Alabama (19-1-1, 12-0 SEC) has now won 15 straight matches. The Crimson Tide also used two goals from Mattingly Parker on Aug. 13 in its first showing to down the Commodores in exhibition play. 

However, a much-improved Vanderbilt team was not going to go out without a fight with a title game bid on the line. The Commodores (11-4-4) upset Arkansas to move to the semifinals and drew first blood in the 14th minute when Alabama’s defense was caught out of position. 

Raegan Kelley set up Peyton Cutshall for the score, marking the first time the Crimson Tide gave up the first score since Oct. 16 against Arkansas. 

Alabama responded in the form of Riley Mattingly Parker’s 13th goal of the season in the 18th minute. Riley Tanner and Felicia Knox were each credited with the assist. That means Knox has finally beaten her head coach’s single-season assists mark. She’s now up to 16 assists.  

The Crimson Tide defense showed up multiple times in the first half, with McKinley Crone making one of her best saves of the campaign in the 28th minute. In the 36th minute, Crone was off her line, and Sasha Pickard made an impressive block to stop the Commodores from taking another lead. 

The second half wouldn’t feature a breakaway in scoring by either team. Chances were there. In the 71st minute, Ashlynn Serepca launched a shot at the net and Vanderbilt’s Sara Wojdelko laid out to make a heroic save. Something had to give and in the very last minute of the match, something did. 

With fewer than 40 seconds remaining until overtime, Vanderbilt’s Abena Aidoo fouled Gianna Paul in the box. Neither her nor head coach Darren Ambrose liked the call — Ambrose was ejected for abusive language. Mattingly Parker set up to take the penalty kick and buried it. 

That score, her 14th, sent Alabama to its first SEC tournament final since 1995. 

“I’m glad we didn’t have to play 20 more minutes,” head coach Wes Hart said. “I can’t be more proud of our group’s effort tonight, and really all season long. We’ve won games in a variety of different ways. It was a great goal by our SEC Forward of the Year. When we needed her most, she came up clutch. Twice.” 

“I was ready for [the penalty kick],” Mattingly Parker said. “I was confident I was going to make it. I am so excited and proud of my teammates, but at the same time, I didn’t come here just to make it to the semifinals, or make it to the championship. I want to win a championship.” 

Alabama will have to beat South Carolina for the second time this season on Sunday to win that championship. The Crimson Tide toppled the then-No. 5 Gamecocks in September, starting the incredible run that this conference season has been.  

Kickoff for the match is set for Sunday, Nov. 6 at 1 p.m. CT on the SEC Network. 

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