Newspaper article News Sentinel

Tennessee Women's Soccer - Wilkinson's Growth as a Leader Invaluable for UT Soccer

Newspaper article News Sentinel

Tennessee Women's Soccer - Wilkinson's Growth as a Leader Invaluable for UT Soccer

Article excerpt

"It hasn't always been just about the soccer, it's about the growth of myself as a person."

hannah wilkinson

tennessee senior forward

There was a time when Tennessee women's soccer coach Brian Pensky didn't know what to expect from Hannah Wilkinson during tight moments in a game.

He didn't know whether the Tennessee senior forward from New Zealand would step up and lead the team or whether she would become so frustrated that her performance would suffer.

"In years past, we were flipping a coin whether she was going to stay true to what we needed out of her," Pensky said.

He doesn't need to flip that coin anymore. Pensky said that Wilkinson rarely passes up an opportunity to lead the Vols. She leads training sessions. She leads warm-ups. She leads the pregame cheer. And she leads during games. She is now the player who communicates with the rest of the team during stressful moments, making sure her teammates remain calm late in the game.

"To sit back and see that evolution of Hannah, it is endlessly invaluable," Pensky said. "(Her leadership) has steadily grown in the last two or three years ... If someone asked me whose team this is, I would probably say first and foremost, it's Hannah's team."

The Vols need Wilkinson's leadership again on Sunday when Tennessee (10-6-1, 5-3-1 SEC) hosts No. 2 South Carolina (15-0-1, 9- 0 SEC) in its final home game at Regal Soccer Stadium at 5 p.m.

Tennessee has already clinched a spot in the SEC tournament and could strengthen its resume with a win. The Vols will honor Wilkinson, along with Kiah Allen, Cali Hutson, Anna McClung, Emily Morrow and Jamie Simmons, before the game during the senior day ceremony.

"This is your last chance to really show up in your last home game and make an impact in your last few moments on the field with your team," said Wilkinson. "I think on senior day, it's more of a celebration of your final time."

Wilkinson has had a lot to celebrate during her Tennessee career. She graduated in the fall of 2015 with a degree in psychology. On the field, she is second in career goals (31) at Tennessee, and she is tied for eighth in career assists (18). …

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