Falcons take on nationally-ranked Tennessee tonight

The Bowling Green State University women’s soccer team hits the road for the first time this season, facing Tennessee, a nationally ranked opponent.

Coach Jimmy Walker, the four-time defending Mid-American Conference champions, and the Volunteers play tonight at 7 at Regal Soccer Stadium. The match will be streamed via SEC Network Plus, and is also available via the ESPN app.

Tennessee is 0-2-1 on the young season. The Volunteers are ranked 21st in the nation in the Top Drawer Soccer poll and 22nd by both College Soccer News (Monday’s poll) and United Soccer Coaches (last Tuesday’s poll).

All three of UT’s matches have come against nationally ranked foes, including a draw vs. Southern Methodist and losses at North Carolina and, most recently, at home vs. No. 5 Duke.

Jaida Thomas has two of the team’s three goals this season to date. First-year coach Joe Kirt welcomed back 10 starters from last year’s club that finished 20-3 overall and 8-2 in the Southeastern Conference.

BGSU has never met Tennessee in women’s soccer. The Falcons are 0-3-2 all-time against teams from the SEC, with the draws coming in the last two matches (3-3 at Kentucky in 2019; 0-0 vs. Ole Miss in the first round of the 2020-21 NCAA championships.

BGSU enters the Tennessee match with a record of 0-1-1. The Falcons opened the season with a 2-0 loss to Michigan State at Cochrane Stadium. The Spartans scored early in each half.

Lili Berg had seven saves in goal on the night. The two goals she allowed came on a rebound after she had made a diving save of the initial shot, and on a penalty kick.

A week later BGSU battled visiting Cincinnati to a 1-1 draw at Cochrane. Freshman Brynn Gardner scored her first collegiate goal in the 71st minute.

The goal was set up by Lacee Bethea, who beat a pair of UC players as she made a long run from midfield into the box, then drew the goalkeeper toward her and slid a pass to a wide-open Gardner at the far post. Berg made three stops vs. the Bearcats.

Bethea is the top returning scorer for the Falcons, after recording seven goals and 15 points last season. She was named the MAC Tournament MVP.

In goal, Berg returns after playing nearly 97% (1,900 of 1,962) of the total minutes last season. Berg has been named to the All-MAC second team in each of her first two seasons with the Falcons.

The Falcons return home to take on Detroit Mercy on Sunday. That match will also mark Senior Day, with the seniors in the BGSU program recognized prior to kickoff.