#29 Tennessee Women's Soccer 2012 Preview

University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers

Overall Rank: #29
Conference Rank: #5 Southeastern Conference
Tennessee Women's College Soccer 2012 Team Preview
Tennessee Team Page


The Tennessee Lady Volunteers enter the 2012 season under the helm of a new head coach, Brian Pensky. Pensky replaces Angela Kelly, who guided the Lady Volunteers for 12 seasons before announcing her departure at the end of last season. Pensky comes to Tennessee from Maryland, where he was the head coach from 2005 – 2011. He inherits a team that was able to return to NCAA tournament play last year with an at-large ticket following a two-year absence, and was runner-up in the SEC championship. Eight of the eleven starting players will return in 2012.

2011 Record: 15-7-0, 7-4-0
2011 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Brian Pensky

Leading the Tennessee offense will be junior forward Caroline Brown. Brown scored eleven goals and notched eight assists for a combined thirty points last season, and started all twenty-two games. She was also named to the All-SEC second team and a third team Capital One Academic All-American. Joining her offensively will be senior midfielders Kylie Bono and Amy Harrison, who fed a combined eight assists to last year’s strikers, and senior forward Alexis Owens, who scored several goals during the team’s spring season.

The Lady Volunteers have a wealth of experience in the back, as they return all four starting defenders and their starting goalkeeper. Ali Hall (senior) will anchor the defensive line, which tied the program record for fewest goals allowed (15) last year, alongside Caroline Capocaccia (junior), Tori Bailey (junior), and Allie Sirna (sophomore). Behind them will be sophomore goalkeeper Julie Eckel, who finished her freshman campaign as the program’s second all-time in saves with 105. Also starting in all twenty-two games for Tennessee, Eckel was named to the SEC All-Freshmen team in 2011. These five players should cause quite a bit of difficulty for opponents this season.

The three starting players that Tennessee will play without this season include forwards Emily Dowd and Chelsea Hatcher, last year’s first and third leading scorers, respectively, and midfielder Emily Shore. The Lady Volunteer offense will have to rebuild in 2012, looking to returning striker Brown to step up and lead the effort there. The team will also have to adjust quickly to a new coaching strategy and small class of incoming freshmen. As Coach Pensky said in March on the college’s call-in radio show, Vol Calls, "right now we have some very good players in our program, but if there is one thing I wish we had more of right now it would be players."

Final Projection:
It’s never an easy transition when a longtime coach leaves and a new captain arrives on campus, and Tennessee will be faced with that challenge this season. Coach Pensky will have to do the best he can with the team he has inherited, and, from their record this spring season of 4-0-2, it looks like he has been doing a fine job thus far. Adding depth to the Volunteer bench this upcoming season will be six “talented and versatile” recruits (as Pensky described in the signee press release in March), who include one defender/midfielder, two midfielders, and three strikers. One of them, Hannah Wilkinson, plays for the New Zealand Senior Women’s National Team and has been garnering a lot of attention for her role as a striker in the 2010 Under-20 Women’s World Cup and the 2011 Women’s World Cup. With that experience, expect to see Wilkinson making an immediate impact this season. Though the team’s seniors from last year were able to participate in spring games, the experience was a great way for Pensky to become acclimated to the team and they to him. This team should again reach the NCAA tournament, and be a serious contender for the SEC championship title.

Projected Postseason: NCAA

Returning Leaders:
Goals: Caroline Brown, Junior, M/F, 11
Assists: Caroline Brown, Junior, M/F, 8
Shots: Caroline Brown, Junior, M/F, 66
Saves: Julie Eckel, Sophomore, GK, 105