Posted on August 21, 2016
KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Maya Neal scored her first-career collegiate goal off a corner kick in the 77th minute to propel Tennessee to a big 1-0 win over Liberty on Sunday evening at Regal Soccer Stadium.
Neal, a redshirt freshman forward from Naperville, Ill., was a threat all night long, leading both teams with six shots while helping the Vols earn their first win of 2016. UT looked in control from the onset and applied constant pressure to the Flames’ back line, generating 17 total shots and 11 on goal.
Freshman Mady Hairston came inches away from scoring her first collegiate goal in the 38th minute after hitting the inside of the post from just inside the 18-yard box. The Volunteers held an 8-7 shot advantage in the first half but were unable to find the back of the net and had to settle for a scoreless draw heading into halftime.
After weathering an early surge by Liberty (0-2) to start the second half, the Big Orange began to retake control of the game, generating numerous quality opportunities. Rylie O’Keefe had a good chance to open the scoring in the 70th minute but was turned away by Flames’ goalkeeper Holly Van Noord.
The Vols nearly took the lead again in the 76th minute, but Van Noord came up with back-to-back stops from close range on Neal and O’Keefe to keep the game scoreless. However, Neal was finally able to break through on the ensuing corner kick, hammering home a perfect service from O’Keefe to give UT a 1-0 advantage with 14 minutes left to play.
Neal would have added another goal in the 88th minute if not for a stellar stop by Van Noord, who finished the game with 10 saves. O’Keefe also had three shots on goal for the Orange and White to go along with her first assist of the year.
Redshirt senior goalkeeper Jamie Simmons was also solid between the posts, making four saves while recording her first shutout of the season and eighth of her UT career.
Head coach Brian Pensky praised the team’s freshmen after the game for stepping up and playing some big minutes. Maddie Krejci earned her first-career start and played 42 minutes while Claire Franks, Mary Alice Vignola and Hairston also played significant minutes in the win.
The Vols are back in action on Aug. 25 when they welcome the Washington Huskies to Regal Soccer Stadium for a Thursday night showdown. Start time is set for 7 p.m.