ORANGE BEACH, Ala. — The Commodores are champions.
Vanderbilt beat Arkansas 3-1 on Sunday in the SEC Tournament championship, giving the program its first league tournament title since 1994. Vandy overcame a 1-0 deficit thanks to goals by Kimya Raietparvar, Raegan Kelley and Abi Brighton.
The Commodores (8-4) scored 14 goals in four tournament matches – an SEC Tournament record – for head coach Darren Ambrose. They also became the second team in SEC Tournament history since it expanded to include 10 teams to win four matches en route to a championship.
Sunday’s SEC Tournament championship was the 22nd claimed by Vanderbilt Athletics.
The Razorbacks, the No. 1 overall seed, finished its season 9-2.
“I’m just so proud of this group of 29 kids,” Ambrose said. “This has been a long four months and to get to this match at this time of year in this particular set of circumstances is an incredible testament to their resilience and toughness. I’m proud of how we played all week. We’ve been the best that I’ve seen any of my teams play here consistently here for a while and they just put themselves on a mission and executed everything we asked them to do and they thoroughly deserve to be where they are today.”
Arkansas came out the gate and stunned the Commodores with a goal 46 seconds in. A failed clearance of a cross in the box fell to the right foot Kayla McKeon who slipped home the opening score.
Vandy was not deterred.
Not more than two minutes later Haley Hopkins drew a penalty kick. Raietparvar stepped to the spot and fired home a goal into the left side of the goal equalizing the score.
The Commodores certainly weren’t done, either.
In the fifth minute Leila Azari used a fine piece of individual skill to work down the right side of the field before lifting a cross for Kelley who headed it in giving Vanderbilt a 2-1 edge.
Vandy took that lead into the break and finished the first 45 minutes with three shots on goal and three corner kicks.
In the second half it was the Commodores who got off to a fast start. Brighton unleashed a right-footed strike from 20 yards out that banged off the crossbar and down over the line making it 3-1.
Vanderbilt was 37 minutes away from a championship at that point.
Arkansas picked up the pressure but couldn’t find a second goal or an equalizer. Vandy keeper Sarah Fuller finished with three saves.