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Alabama soccer opens season 3-0-0

Alabama soccer has had quite the year. The Tide put together a great season in 2011 in head coach Todd Bramble’s fourth season in Tuscaloosa and eventually made it to the NCAA Tournament. Now, with depth and talent that is good enough to compete with the best of the best, the Tide is ready to take the next step forward in 2012. So far, it has.

The Crimson Tide continued to build on the success it generated during the first game of the season by knocking off Samford in the Tide’s home opener on Friday evening. The Tide beat the Bulldogs 2-1 off of goals by freshman Katie Bourgeois and captain Theresa Diederich.

An Alabama team that is replacing three mainstays on its defensive back line did a wonderful job of keeping the Bulldogs at bay. While Samford did manage to put one shot in the back of the net, the Tide’s back line stayed compact and strong throughout the match and never caused reason for concern.

The Crimson Tide spent much of the first half controlling the flow of play by moving the ball continuously and effectively through the midfield. Samford never posed a threat in the first half and only managed two shots while the Crimson Tide had 16.

After an entire half of chances and buildup, the Tide got on the board in the 45th minute when Bourgeois volleyed home a cross from senior Kendall Khanna. The freshman’s goal was her second of the season and occurred in only her second-career regular season game.

The Tide took the 1-0 lead into the locker room, and returned to the pitch looking to build on the confidence generated by the late goal. Just 12 minutes into the second half, the Tide did just that when senior Meghan Duffy hurled the ball down the sidelines on a throw in straight to the feet of sophomore Theresa Diederich. Diederich took matters into her own hands, cut between two defenders and buried the ball in the back of the net to give the Tide the 2-0 advantage.

Samford scored a goal on a battle inside the box in the 69th minute, but that was as close as the Bulldogs would come to pulling even with the Tide. Alabama outshot Samford 26-7 and recorded 8 corner kicks while the Bulldogs only recorded 1.

The celebration did not last long for Coach Bramble’s squad, though, as the Tide had a quick turnaround to get prepared for a game on Sunday afternoon against UAB.

Alabama began the game battling for control with the Blazers, but eventually seized control of possession and began to dominate the pace of play. The Tide had numerous buildups but nothing came of it until late in the first half.

Senior Josie Rix played a stellar pass over the top of the UAB defense that struggled to get back and the ball landed at the feet of sophomore forward Pia Rijsdijk. Rijsdijk kept the ball at her feet and tucked it into the far post just past the outstretched arms of UAB’s freshman goalkeeper Courtnie Northern. The Tide took the 1-0 lead into halftime.

When the Tide returned to the pitch, it continued to control possession and break down a physical UAB midfield and defense. Junior midfielder Molly Atherton scored her first goal of the season in the 62nd minute on a cross from senior Lindsey Sillers to give Alabama a 2-0 lead.

The Tide would build on that lead in the 86th minute when sophomore Theresa Diederich put her second goal of the season in the back of the net on a free kick from the left corner of the 18-yard box. Diederich had a similar chance earlier in the match and just missed tucking a curling strike into the near post, but she made sure to capitalize when she had another opportunity.

The Crimson Tide’s final goal of the match was scored by junior Kendall Khanna in the 89th minute. The score was Khanna’s first of the young season and gave the Tide a 4-0 lead. The win gives Alabama a 3-0-0 record in the early stages of the 2012 season.

Alabama will be back in action on Friday when it takes on South Alabama. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. in Mobile. The Crimson Tide will have another quick turnaround on Sunday when Coach Bramble’s squad returns to Tuscaloosa for its second home game of the season to play Mercer at 1 p.m.

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