Soccer Returns Home to Face Tennessee

by Will Stafford (@WillStaffordLSU)
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Soccer Returns Home to Face Tennessee

BATON ROUGE – The Tigers take a two-game winning streak into Friday’s fixture with visiting Tennessee as they look to start 2-0 in Southeastern Conference play for the third time in five seasons when they play host to the Lady Volunteers in a match that is scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m. CT at the LSU Soccer Stadium in Baton Rouge.

The Tigers (5-3-1, 1-0 SEC) are coming off a thrilling 2-1 overtime victory at Vanderbilt on Saturday night to improve to 5-2-2 in SEC openers in nine seasons under head coach Brian Lee.

Sophomore Fernanda Pina provided the heroics in extra time by scoring her team-leading fourth goal of the season on a free kick by senior Alex Ramsey in the 95th minute to deliver the Golden Goal in LSU’s 2-1 defeat of Vanderbilt. Sophomore Heather Magee also opened her account in the 27th minute by scoring the first goal of the match and her first goal of the 2013 season.

The Tigers have enjoyed a good run of form in recent weeks while winning three of their last four matches away from home heading into Friday’s SEC clash, including a 1-0 blanking of the 13th-ranked USC Trojans at the Minnesota Gold Classic in Minneapolis, Minn., on Sept. 8 and a 1-0 shutout of the Rice Owls in Houston, Texas, on Sept. 15.

The Lady Volunteers (6-2-1, 1-0) are coming off a victory of their own in their SEC opener on Friday night when they took down the 20th-ranked Texas A&M Aggies by a 1-0 margin on their home field at the Regal Soccer Stadium in Knoxville. Tennessee’s non-conference season was highlighted by a 2-1 win over 17th-ranked Central Florida in Orlando back on Aug. 30.

LSU is looking for a 2-0 start in SEC play for just the sixth time in its 19-year history on the soccer pitch and its third time during Lee’s tenure following team-best 4-0 conference starts in 2009 and 2011.

“We’re excited to come back home for the first time in a few weeks. What a great opponent to have coming in for our first SEC match here in Baton Rouge,” Lee said ahead of Friday’s fixture. “Tennessee is a team that is a championship contender year in and year out, and this year is certainly no different with the form they’ve showed us to this point. We look forward to a great night of SEC soccer.”

LSU has managed a 4-11-2 record in the all-time series, but is 4-5-2 in eight previous seasons under Lee’s direction with a three-game winning streak in matches played at the LSU Soccer Stadium in Baton Rouge.

The Tigers have outscored the Lady Volunteers by a 10-1 margin in their last three meetings in Baton Rouge, including a 3-0 shutout of No. 6-ranked Tennessee for their first victory over a top-10 team in 2007, a 5-1 win in 2009 and a 2-0 shutout over No. 10-ranked Tennessee in their last match at the LSU Soccer Stadium in 2011.

Preseason All-American striker Hannah Wilkinson leads the Tennessee attack as she leads the team in all three major offensive categories with five goals, three assists and 13 points on the season. Wilkinson missed an exciting SEC-opening win by the Lady Volunteers while competing for New Zealand’s national team at the Valais Cup in Switzerland over the past week. She scored the first goal in New Zealand’s 4-0 win over China in a cup-clinching final on Wednesday after the team opened with a 1-0 victory over Brazil on Monday.

The Lady Volunteers are also led in the attack by senior All-SEC midfielder Caroline Brown, who has scored three goals on the season as she teams with Wilkinson for a lethal 1-2 scoring punch for the visitors.

Pina headlines the scoresheet for the Tigers as she has already matched her team-leading total of four goals from her freshman season a year ago after scoring the game-winning Golden Goal in the 95th minute in a 2-1 win at Vanderbilt on Saturday night. Freshman Emma Fletcher also recorded her team-leading fifth assist of the campaign on Magee’s breakthrough goal in the 27th minute of the match.

Fans can “Geaux Free!” to each of LSU’s five remaining home matches during the 2013 regular season as admission is free at the LSU Soccer Stadium, compliments of The Advocate.

Fans who are unable to attend the events can also watch the Tigers in action in the Geaux Zone as live streaming video will be available at www.lsusports.net/live. In addition, supporters can receive live updates of the match by following @LSUSoccer on Twitter and Instagram or by joining the in-game commentary on LSU Soccer’s official Facebook page.

The Tigers are excited for the return of “Friday Nights Under the Lights” as they will host a free youth clinic prior to kickoff for each Friday night match for the remainder of the 2013 season. A clinic will be held Friday for boys and girls from preschool through the eighth grade from 6-6:30 p.m. CT as those in attendance are asked to bring their own soccer ball, shin guards and water bottle.

Friday’s match also features “Dog’s Night Out” as fans are encouraged to bring their dogs to the match. The first 100 dog owners who check-in at the gate will receive a free dog pamper pack.

Fans attending matches at the LSU Soccer Stadium this season are asked to enter the grounds using the West entrance. The Northwest entrance used in seasons past will now be closed for all future matches.

After playing host to the Tennessee Lady Volunteers on Friday night, the Tigers will wrap up the weekend with a home match against the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Sunday afternoon with kickoff set for 1 p.m. CT at the LSU Soccer Stadium. The Tigers are riding an eight-game winning streak and an 11-game unbeaten streak against the Bulldogs with a 10-0-1 mark versus their former SEC West rivals since 2002.