For video of UNCG coach Steve Nugent's postgame comments, click here.
GREENSBORO, N.C. – Tennessee's Kylie Bono had a goal and an assist as the nationally ranked Lady Vols downed UNCG at the UNCG Soccer Stadium on Sunday, 2-0.
The Spartans (1-3) hung tough with the Lady Vols (5-1), ranked 18th in the country by SoccerTimes.com and 23rd in the NSCAA/Continental Tire Top 25, and were less than two minutes from taking a scoreless game into the break. Tennessee got on the board in the 44th minute, however, with Bono collecting Iyana Moore's rebounded shot and banking it in off the right post from about 15 yards out for what would prove to be the game-winner.
The Lady Vols added an insurance goal in the 83rd minute, with Bono slipping a through ball to Alexis Owens in the midfield and Owens racing in for the breakaway goal, her first of the season.
The first-half damage could have been worse for the Spartans if not for a few spectacular plays by UNCG keeper Kelsey Kearney. After Kearney took down Tennessee's Emily Dowd in the box in the 29th minute, Kearney guessed right on Bono's ensuing penalty kick, going to her right and knocking the ball out of harm's way to fire up the home crowd.
Kearney also had a couple of point-blank saves in the first half, as she stopped attempts by Caroline Brown and Owens from less than 8 yards out.
"We talked about several keys to the game to beating a team like Tennessee," UNCG coach Steve Nugent said. "The first thing we put on the board this morning was that we had to have tremendous goalkeeping, and we did get that today, without question."
UNCG freshman Ashley Stokes had one of UNCG's two shots in the first half, but Tennessee keeper Julie Eckel easily wrapped up the attempt. Kristin Player had the Spartans' only other attempt in the opening frame, as she took a free kick from about 10 yards outside the 18-yard box on the left wing. Eckel was also able to corral Player's curling shot to keep the Spartans off the board.
Player tried pull UNCG level just 26 seconds into the second frame, as she tried to chip Eckel from the right wing, about 25 yards out. Eckel was also able to make that stop, one of her five saves on the afternoon.
Freshman Shea Glaspey had perhaps UNCG's best scoring chance of the day, as she one-timed a Player cross off a corner kick toward the upper left corner of the goal in the 63rd minute. Eckel, Tennessee's true freshman starter who has yielded just four goals in six matches, was again up to the task to keep UNCG scoreless.
Kearney, who matched Eckel save-for-save, faced 16 shots on the afternoon.
"We spend a lot of time working on how we're going to defend," Nugent said. "I thought the girls read service very well. Tennessee's a fairly direct team. We know what their strengths are. Their strengths are their front five players. The front five players are as good as anybody we've seen so far. We knew that they were going to try to find them early and often, but I thought our backs did a really good job of pressing them. I thought the cover was really good."
UNCG held Tennessee's top two scorers, Brown and Dowd, to just a combined three shots.
The road does not get any easier for UNCG, which has faced three teams so far this season that have been ranked in the top 25 nationally. The Spartans will take on No. 1 North Carolina and another top-10 team, Duke, next weekend at the Duke Nike Classic in Durham, N.C.
"We look forward to the opportunity to play the best teams in the country," Nugent said. "It does help us with the conference, without a question."
No. 18/23 Tennessee 2, UNCG 0
Goals by period 1 2 Tot
Tennessee........... 1 1 - 2
UNCG................ 0 0 - 0
1. 43:20 TN Kylie Bono (Iyana Moore)
2. 82:22 TN Alexis Owens (1) (Kylie Bono)
Shots: Tennessee 16, UNCG 5; Saves: Tennessee 5 (Julie Eckel 5), UNCG 5 (Kelsey Kearney 5); Corner kicks: Tennessee 5, UNCG 2; Fouls: Tennessee 10, UNCG 8
- UNCG -