The Tennessee Lady Vols have won two matches in a shortened 2020 regular season thus far. What do those two matches have in common? A match-winning goal from redshirt freshman Jaida Thomas.
In only her second-ever NCAA match, Thomas scored the lone goal in a 1-0 upset victory vs. Vanderbilt. “I gained a lot of confidence from this game, and that confidence was something that I definitely needed,” Jaida told BGN. The performance earned her SEC Freshman of the Week. The next time Thomas found the net was also a match-winner, but this time, it gave the Lady Vols a 2-1 win over Missouri.
Game-winning goals are nothing new to Thomas, who scored a winner for Bishop Lynch HS with less than five minutes remaining in the state championship in high school. On the college level, Thomas has already proven to be a game-changer for the Lady Vols, tied for the team-lead in goals and the sole leader in shots on goal. With just six matches under her belt, it seems like Jaida made the right choice for her college career. “The coaches and the entire scenery made this the right school for me,” she said. “The family atmosphere is something you can’t find everywhere, and that’s why I chose Tennessee.”
“I have enjoyed my time here thus far even through injury the past year. Now that I am playing, it is even better!”
That injury kept the Texas native Thomas on the shelf for the 2019 season. “The redshirt year of 2019 was helpful because it allowed me to grow in my relationship with the Lord, as well as teaching me how to face a lot of adversity,” she explained. “I was able to study the game at a deeper level than just playing, but actually enjoying the little moments that you sometimes forget about as a player. I think I can help this team a lot, just through working hard and letting everything else fall into place with the help of my teammates.”
During her high school career, Thomas’ athletic ability was showcased on the basketball court, too. She helped Bishop Lynch win a state title on the hardwood and was named First Team All-State during her senior year. “Success is something that has been a part of not just my basketball life, but also soccer through club,” Thomas said. “I do think basketball has helped with my vision in seeing things in soccer, as well as my quickness in certain areas. My game was like a mini-Jordan through my childhood.”
— Jaida Thomas (@jaidat_6) March 4, 2019
“Growing up I began to be the player that was always quick and always getting steals. I brought energy on the court as well as scoring off of transition moments.”
That quickness also helped secure Thomas a nickname that’s stuck around for awhile now: Stallion. She explained, “The nickname came about in middle school with my club team. I had a lot of speed and I was pretty tall for my age. The parents and coaches began to give me the name of Stallion and until this day people still call me it.”
Next up, Thomas and Tennessee will travel to Gainesville to play the University of Florida in their final road match of the regular season. The Lady Vols will host South Carolina next Friday before participating in the SEC Tournament. Both regular season matches can be streamed via SEC Network+ and kick off at 6 PM.