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Dipasupil, No. 10 Lady Vols Put Away Lady Bulldogs

Tennessee Soccer secures its thirteenth win on the season with a 2-1 home victory over the Mississippi State Lady Bulldogs

Knoxville, Tenn– Brian Pensky's tenth ranked Lady Vols soccer squad came into their fourteenth game of the season on Friday, hosting the Mississippi State Lady Bulldogs in Regal Stadium. Tennessee improved their record to 13-1 with a 2-1 victory over the Lady Bulldogs, also improving their SEC record to 6-1. The loss drops Mississippi State to 3-7-3 on the season with a 1-5-1 SEC record. The Lady Vols strengthen their grasp on first place in the SEC East with the win, as the South Carolina Gamecocks trail by three-and-a-half games and Georgia by a full four games. 

Tennessee's win saw freshman defender Claire Rain score her second goal of the season early in the first half, as well as star junior midfielder Claudia Dipasupil find the net within the first two minutes of the second half, sending a rocket to net her seventh goal of the mature season. 

While Rain's goal came after a Claudia Dipasupil penalty kick that put the freshman in good position, Dipasupil's net was officially assisted by freshman Jordan Fusco. 

Both Rain and Dipasupil's Friday night nets can be seen below:

via Tennessee Soccer Twitter

Following Dipasupil's goal in the second half, the Lady Bulldogs responded fairly quickly with a net of their own ten minutes later courtesy a Madison Cotta kick. Cotta was able to get well behind Tennessee defenders and take advantage of a favorable one-on-one matchup with Lady Vols' keeper Lindsey Romig to secure the net.

Friday night's match stayed a one goal game for the remainder of the 34 minutes after the Cotta goal, and it was not until in the late stages of the contest that the Lady Vols were in real jeopardy of having to go to overtime. 

With approximately two minutes remaining, senior Lady Bulldogs defender Andrea Tyrell got a clean shot off in Tennessee territory with Romig out of position, and everyone in Regal went silent as overtime seemed well on the horizon.

However, Tennessee junior defender Tara Katz had other plans.

Katz displayed her lightning quick speed and chased down the rolling ball, setting herself up to make the incredible save. 

The Lady Vols coasted to the win following Katz' essentially game-clinching save, and Tennessee's hopes of a sixth straight win became a reality. 

Following the win, teammates and goal-scorers on the night Claudia Dipasupil and Claire Rain met with the media to discuss Katz' save. 

Dipasupil: "[It was] phenomenal. Tara's a great player and she really stepped up for us. I had a heart attack on the field [watching the play]." 

Rain: "It was outstanding. Her little feet go so fast. Tara is the best."

Lady Vols Head Coach Brian Pensky was also available to the media following the win, and he applauded Katz' incredible play as well.

"Hats off to Tara Katz. That was a phenomenal play... It was such an awkward moment. It's one of those 'tweener balls between a back and a goalkeeper, and Lawson had that kid running up her backside, and so you never know, should Lawson come play that? Should Lindsey come play that? So Lindsey came for it and then missed it, obviously. Then it was really hard to tell [what was going to happen]... In that maybe two-second span, there was one second that I thought, 'that's a goal,' and then there was another second I thought, 'Tara might get there.' And so Tara Katz... her mother has Stage 4 Cancer, so she lives a tough life everyday, but that girl is one tough cookie. And she won the game for us tonight."

With Tennessee's only two goals of the evening coming quickly after each half's kick-off, the Lady Vols did not have much offense going as each half progressed, contributing to the fact that Katz' save was so monumental in ensuring a victory. 

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After the game, Pensky also made sure to touch up on his thoughts about the fast starts but also slow downs in each half from the Lady Vols.

"We scored two decent goals. I do not think it was a characteristic performance from us [as a whole]. Sometimes I just say this to the team, 'It's great when you score an early goal... but then it can make you comfortable. It can make you relaxed, and it can inspire them.' And that's what happened in the first half. And then in the second half, all of the sudden... we score another goal. The foot was on the pedal for about five minutes, and then boom [they score] in one moment, and that was how they were trying to hurt us all night with balls behind us... And then for the last 33 minutes we were in the fight of our lives. I do think it was very good for us, though, to have to fight through that and survive that. I did not like it... we involved the goalkeeper too much. We had some moments to kill off the game, but we played the ball vertically into their goal keepers. So, there are some moments we can learn from... but the benefit is we got three points [tonight] and we had to be tough down the stretch. It was the first time we had to grind through the final thirty minutes with a one goal lead, and that is what is good for us."

Tennessee-Mississippi State was played in front of 2,379 attendees at Regal Stadium, approximately 700 short of the attendance record for a Tennessee home game at 3,042, which was set in 2001 when No. 18 UT hosted No. 1 UNC. Despite the failure to break the record, Regal Stadium seemed to be physically rocking on multiple occasions, as Vol Nation took the scoreboard's 'Stomp Your Feet' instructions to heart. 

Junior Dipasupil and freshman Rain were pleasantly surprised with the turnout on Friday, noting this particular game as 'different.'

Dipasupil: "We get a lot of fans every game, but this just felt different. I know we were trying to break the attendance record, and even if we did not do that, it just felt so great to get the support from people from all over."

Rain: "Yeah the atmosphere felt great. They were rowdy when we had the ball, and it was just a great experience."

Coach Pensky also had high praise for the environment in the win.

"It was fantastic. Most importantly, I'm happy for the kids to get attention with a crowd like that... it was inspiring with the food trucks out there, having a little bit of atmosphere behind the goal. It was an exciting thing to be a part of."

With the Lady Vols in commanding lead of the SEC East, Pensky and the players now set their focus on in-state rival Vanderbilt.

Dipasupil: "Every week we approach it every game at a time... it's an away game, so we want to be considered road warriors. So we'll aim to live up to that." 

Pensky: "It's officially Vanderbilt week. It's a big week for them, it's a big week for us. But getting three points tonight is huge for us... This team [Mississippi State] is a lot better than their record. They were athletic, competitive, organized and caused us all kinds of problems. So we just feel fortunate to get a win tonight and are looking forward to next week."

Current No. 10 Tennessee will travel to Vanderbilt on Thursday, October 21 for a 7 p.m. ET rivalry showdown in Nashville in an attempt to make it seven straight since losing their only game of the season against Arkansas back in mid-September. 

The Lady Vols will be back in Knoxville to host division foe Georgia on October 24 at 5 p.m. ET. in Regal Stadium.

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