Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Alabama soccer rebounds for first conference win of season vs. Vanderbilt

CW/ Riley Thompson
Alabama soccer player Felicia Knox (#8) prepares to kick the ball during a game against Vanderbilt on Sept. 24 at the Alabama Soccer Stadium.

Alabama soccer got back in the win column with a 1-0 victory over Vanderbilt to remain undefeated at home this season.

The Commodores played a competitive game and fought for all 90 minutes but were ultimately overwhelmed by a Crimson Tide team that played one of its most balanced and effective games of the season.  

It was a much needed turnaround for Alabama, who was coming off of a humiliating 5-0 loss to Arkansas in Fayetteville last Thursday. Head coach Wes Hart was able to turn that game into a lesson for the team. 

“I wanted it to sting a bit. You don’t want to just sweep it under the rug,” Hart said. “There are lessons to be learned about SEC play and battling and competing and having a target on our back.” 

Alabama is now in unfamiliar territory. For the first time all year they are not viewed as the consensus best team in the SEC, with Arkansas expected to pass them in this week’s poll. In a way, the loss may have taken some of the edge off and allowed the team to refocus on the game at hand.

“We were able to get some of the rhythm back that we had,” said graduate student Marriana Annest. 

Vanderbilt got off to a quick start in this one, firing off five shots in the first 25 minutes. The Commodores as a team outshot Alabama 13-9, but sixth-year senior Dylan Pixtan recorded five saves to record her fourth shutout in six starts.

“Dylan made plays. I think she gives us a lot of confidence,” Hart said postgame. 

Pixtan continues to split starts with freshman Coralie Lallier, who gave up all five goals in that loss to Arkansas. But Hart remains very encouraged with the progress that both keepers have made.

“They’re both so darn good. It’s a luxury to have [two goalkeepers], even though it’s kind of difficult trying to pick one girl over the other,” Hart said.

The lone goal of the game was scored by Annest in the 41st minute. It was just the third of the senior defender’s Alabama career. She was assisted on the play by sophomore Sydney Japic, who broke the sequence down postgame.

“I looked up prior to getting the ball from my teammate Gessica [Skorka] and I saw Kate Henderson who I knew has a great heading ability and I saw Marianna in there,” Japic said. “I saw the defender coming at me. It was just kind of instinctive at that point. I got in the zone. I just kind of kicked it across my body. I hit it and I knew if I get it in there I know someone’s going to finish, I know my teammates.” 

And that is exactly what happened. It is a big moment anytime a defender scores a goal. But even more shocking than who did score was who didn’t. Forward Gianna Paul had scored in all but one of Alabama’s wins this year coming into the game. 

But the fact that she even suited up was a miracle after injuring her ankle against Arkansas.  

“Until kickoff I did not think she was playing,” Hart said of his star player.  

Paul reaggravated her ankle in a first-half collision and was visibly limping at times, but still managed to play a full 50 minutes. 

“She is a menace. She makes the defenses pretty damn scared. She’s always a key, as were so many others tonight. But getting GP in that game was huge,” Hart concluded.

All in all, it was a great night in Tuscaloosa. Hart’s team debuted their new gray uniforms, which the entire team swears brought good luck, and came away with their seventh win of the season. 

“We battled, we competed, we fought. I thought we played some of our best soccer. We created some great looks, had some great possessions, and grinded out a win.”  

The Crimson Tide heads to the Bluegrass State for a battle with the No. 23 Kentucky Wildcats on Friday at 8 p.m. The game will air on SEC Network+. 

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