Tennessee's 2022 schedule has not been released, but some games are on the books. This is what we've got so far:
DATE OPPONENT 2021 Record 2021 RPI
8/13 Dayton (EX) 12-6-1 132
8/21 SMU 12-5-2 23
8/25 Duke 16-4-1 2
8/31 Bowling Green 11-7-3 66
9/18 Kennesaw St. 9-8-2 138
9/16 at Florida 4-12-4 123
10/14 LSU 11-8-1 49
As noted, our first regular-season game, after an exhibition against Dayton, appears to be against an SMU team that was good last year. Pensky, before leaving, mentioned that we were playing both UNC and Duke this season. The Duke game is on; not sure about UNC yet. It could be on--we should have at least one if not two additional out-of-conference games--but hasn't been listed. We shall see.
Our first SEC matchup seems to be against Florida--or it might be our second. Not quite sure. Of the games listed, all but the Florida game are at home. Getting a result against Duke (either a tie or a win) would be huge for our RPI but it's obviously going to be a tough match--Duke is good/very good every year.
Some games are actually scheduled for August 8, if you can believe it. That is early!
FYI, Pensky's first regular-season game as FSU coach appears to be against South Carolina--his/our old SEC rival. You can bet that SC coach Shelley Smith, who is very competitive and a bit of a bad sport, IMO, will be dying to knock off FSU in Pensky's first regular-season contest. He will not want to lose that game, but SC is always tough to be beat with their good defense.
Emily Schleifer, Lake Worth, Fla. (America Heritage High School) University of Tennessee, Midfielder
Schleifer returns home to the south Florida area after playing for the Tennessee Volunteers last season. She recorded her first collegiate goal against Tennessee Tech. While she played for American Heritage, Schleifer was a First-Team All-American and a two-time Florida Player of the Year.
Hard to say. She's committed to USC, so she's obviously got some qualities, but it may be that our coaches simply weren't all that taken with her overall skill set. I will say that we've consistently out-recruited South Carolina over the last, say, 5 years--but it's also true that no coach in America gets more out of her talent than S. Smith of the Gamecocks. We have more talent--but she does get results consistently.
It's not like the Vols haven't been keeping tabs on in-state talent: We've got commitments from 5 in-state players for '22 and '23--all of whom play for the Tennessee Soccer Club. That is FAR more local talent than we ever had in the last 10 years. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing remains to be seen--but at least 2/3 of them look to have a lot of potential. One had been an Ole Miss commit but we turned her. Pensky can recruit--and Kirt and Co. will have to maintain his success if we want to become a regular national contender. Of course Kirt and Morgan have been involved in recruiting for years--and I assume pretty heavily--but you need the head coach to close the deal on top prospects. I think--hope-- our new assistant coach will be an asset to our recruiting.
Speaking of recruiting, What I've learned from watching a lot of college--and specifically--UT soccer is that, first, you need a good, tough, PHYSICAL defensive midfielder. It's no accident that the two best teams we've had the last 10 years have had one--Cousins and, now, Burdette. FSU had a tough defensive mid in Jailen Howell for four years and won 2 national titles.
Second, you need a pair of GOOD centerbacks. You will not go very far with mediocre centerbacks--and our centerback play was mediocre in the two years prior to last year. I was not really impressed by Wren French's CB play for a couple of years, or that of her partner, but it finally clicked for French last year (her third in the position) AND Lawson Renie took over the other spot and really performed well. I don't know who will replace French and partner with Renie this year--but she's not going to have any experience in the position and that's a worry--especially with Duke and UNC on the schedule early. We need someone good in the position. Why has FSU been so good for the last decade? First and foremost, but the 'Noles almost always have an excellent back four.
The third recruiting key is to land a couple of players who can put the ball in the net. Goal-scorers are harder to find than you think--but we've got one in Thomas, who is a talented poacher. Sorry to go on!