NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Haley Hopkins’s 88th-minute goal earned Vanderbilt a 1-0 victory over 15th-ranked Georgia at Vanderbilt Soccer Complex on Sunday night, pocketing a big three points in the SEC East standings with two regular-season games to go.
Vanderbilt fought all night for the go-ahead goal, but it wasn’t until the last two minutes of the tightly-contested affair the Commodores were able to break through. Moving toward the penalty area, Mya Swinton put a through ball to Leila Azari near the end line and Azari one-timed a cross in front of goal. Working around her defender, Hopkins came from the back side of the Georgia defender and got her head on the ball to send it into the back of the net.
“Overall I was thrilled once we got our feet in the game,” said head coach Darren Ambrose. “A team like Georgia, you’re not going to keep down forever and they kept knocking on the door but our defending was excellent. Credit to Leila Azari, Maddie Elwell and Olivia Simmons to keep banging on the door offensively, we showed the fight and spirit we’re known for and I was really pleased with our toughness. All we needed was to create one chance and we did, so I’m really proud of our team tonight.”
The three points puts Vanderbilt at nine points in the SEC East. With two games to play, Vanderbilt’s final two contests will come against SEC West competition in LSU and Ole Miss. While the top team from each division earns one of the top two seeds, the rest of seeding is determined based on points for the season.
Vanderbilt controlled a majority of the evening, finishing with 63 percent of possession with the game’s best chances all Vanderbilt opportunities. Late in the first half, Maddie Elwell sent a free kick into the center of the box and Raegan Kelley shook her defender to get an uncontested rise to head the incoming ball, but her chance sailed just high over the crossbar to keep the game scoreless through the first 45 minutes.
Then with 15 minutes to go in regulation, Myra Konte sent a nice touch past a Georgia defender for Olivia Simmons but her attempt was deflected. Crashing the net, the deflected ball went right to Azari and her one-timed attempt from near point-blank range was stopped by keeper Emory Wegener.
With the win, Vanderbilt has now defeated eight top-15 programs in six seasons under Ambrose. After posting 11 shutouts last season, the shutout of the Bulldogs marks the first of the 2020 campaign and the first-career clean sheet for Sarah Fuller.
Vanderbilt will head out on the road one more time during the regular season Friday when it visits LSU. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. CT in Baton Rouge, La., on SEC Network+.