Soccer Vanderbilt | Vandy draws attention to a road trip in Northern Illinois

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — It’s a rebound week for the Commodores.

Vanderbilt (2-1) suffered his first loss of the season on Saturday when number 23 Wake Forest came on and led for almost 49:10 of a 45-25 win. It was a blow for the Commodores who had won two straight games to start the season.

Now, second-year head coach Clark Lea can’t wait to see how his team reacts after the season’s first real dose of adversity.

“It’s about this team, where they are right now, trying to bounce back from a game where we didn’t perform at our level,” Lea said of her program’s next challenge. “And we’re up against a good team. We need to be mature enough to overcome this quickly, take the learning with us and go on the road and be road warriors.

“We have to find the courage to hit the road and play with our identity. I’m happy to do it. I’m excited to get back on the road with these guys and see how they react to what was a tough game for us last weekend.

Vandy had a 3-0 lead in Saturday’s game but 21 points from Wake Forest in the space of five game clock minutes finally made it to the Dores. Three turnovers — Vanderbilt’s first three turnovers of the season — didn’t help matters either.

Two days away from that setback, the Commodores have moved on from their last non-conference game on the schedule.

“One thing our coach is emphasizing is getting back to rebuilding on our foundation, really resetting the foundation, really getting back to our five principles and our five commitments,” Vanderbilt safety Maxwell Worship said. “One of the things we have been focusing on is getting back to playing at our highest level as a team and understanding what that means and what that entails.

“It’s really about building on the positives knowing that we haven’t played at our highest level yet and that’s really the goal. Playing at our highest level gives us a chance to “Winning is never guaranteed, but we still haven’t played at our highest level as a team, so that’s the goal for the future. We’re aiming to do that this week.

Northern Illinois is coming off of its own disappointment, a 38-35 loss at Tulsa in which it took a 35-31 lead with 5:57 to go, then gave up a touchdown with 58 seconds on the clock.

But the Huskies, the 2022 preseason favorites in the MAC West Division, are the defending MAC champions and are coming off a nine-win season. Northern Illinois fired 18 starters from that team, including wide receiver Trayvon Rudolph, offensive tackles Nolan Potter and Marques Cox, and conerback Jordan Vandy.

Quarterback Rocky Lombardi started his career at Michigan State and is coming off a 2021 season that saw him throw for nearly 2,600 yards and complete 15 touchdown passes.

“Northern Illinois runs a whole bunch of different types of formations,” Worship said. “They are very many. They are very heavy. They pass here and there, but we know they are very heavy. We’re going to have a whole bunch of staffs to fight their staffs as well.

“And just understand that they are a downhill team and they want to put it down our throats. That’s the biggest problem, it’s just stopping the race.

Vanderbilt has faced Northern Illinois four times before and as recently as 2019 when the Huskies came to Vanderbilt Stadium and lost 24-18. Vandy has won all four previous meetings dating back to 1994, including his only trip to Huskie Stadium in 1997.

Vandy defensive backs coach Dan Jackson coached in northern Illinois for the past two seasons before coming to Nashville.

“We’re going to have to, obviously, be at our best,” Lea said. “That’s the message to the team this week. A year ago, this team opened the season at Georgia Tech with a win. They have beaten eight Power 5 teams since 2009.

“All of these things are indicators for us that this is a team that is proud, this is a great program and this is a team that we are going to have to go out on the road with and be at our best to have any chance of winning. play at our highest level. They will certainly make it difficult for us.

— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for
follow him @MrChadBishop.