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Mayo, Reed, Lally named captains; Golden Eagles open season against MTSU Friday

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COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Just days away from its season opener Friday against Middle Tennessee, the Tennessee Tech soccer team selected its 2009 team captains. Junior Brooke Mayo, and sophomore Lindsey Reed earned the honors, while junior Kathryn Lally was named the team’s academic captain.

“We expect our captains to lead and be responsible,” second-year head coach Becky Fletcher said. “They should set an example both on and off the field. They serve as a team voice, and they are an extension of the coaching staff.”

Tech hosts MTSU Friday at 4 p.m. at the Tech Soccer Field.

The captains were voted on by their teammates, and all three are captains for the first time.

“Brooke worked very hard during the summer, and she kept in contact with all the newcomers, making sure they felt comfortable,” Fletcher said. “She has really stepped up a level and we have been very impressed with her, and obviously her teammates feel the same way.

“Lindsey is a very vocal player from the back line. She communicates and asks a lot of questions, and her teammates feel comfortable coming to her with questions.”

Lally, a business major, has exemplified what it means to be a student-athlete, earning outstanding grades in the classroom while showing her dedication to Tennessee Tech soccer on the field.

“Kathryn is our academic captain because she is such a great student and leader,” Fletcher said. “She will help make sure everybody is doing well in the classroom, and help organize study hall on the road.”

One year removed from taking the Golden Eagles to their first Ohio Valley Conference tournament in five seasons, Fletcher aims even higher in 2009, as 12 incoming freshmen join 12 returnees from a season ago.

Defender Brittany Rogers is the lone senior on the 2009 squad, and junior Ashley Smith is the team’s reigning offensive MVP. Smith racked up 17 points on seven goals and three assists in 2008.

The 12 newcomers who make up Fletcher’s first recruiting class come to Tech from seven different states. In addition to six girls from Tennessee, Fletcher added players from Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Maine, Colorado and Hawaii.

“This is our first recruiting class and we signed 12 girls,” Fletcher said. “It wasn’t just quantity, we were looking for quality, and we got both. We wanted a full roster. We want girls to compete for a spot on our team, and it’s going to bring that competition back. I think the upperclassmen are ready for that, and the new girls are ready to prove something. They’re ready to build their own tradition, and that’s something we’re looking for.”

After a two-year absence, Jen Hoffman will also be back on the field for the Golden Eagles in 2009. Hoffman earned OVC all-freshman honors in 2006 before spending a year away from Tech in 2007. She returned to the Golden Eagles in 2008, when she sat out the season due to NCAA transfer rules. Now Hoffman is ready to get back on the field and play a vital role in Tech’s offense.

“Jen is a very good athlete and a very good, very smart soccer player,” Fletcher said. “I think just having her out on the field is going to give us a competitive edge. She brings that out of everybody.”

The added depth will give Fletcher and first-year assistant Ronda Brooks a luxury she didn’t experience last year, as Tech played with a thin roster during the 2008 season. The full roster will give the coaching staff the option to change systems if needed, and constantly keep fresh legs on the field despite a challenging nine-week Friday/Sunday schedule.

With a wealth of depth comes the responsibility to make important personnel decisions. Fletcher and Brooks have a good idea of the style they want their team to play, but are still toying with different player combinations. It is a process that is unlikely to end when the regular season begins.

“We’re happy with the system that we will be playing, and we’re still trying to find different combinations of players to insert into that system,” Brooks said. “That is something that could change from game to game, we’re going to have a lot of options.”

Throughout the fall camp, Fletcher has put every position up for grabs, giving every player an equal chance to earn a starting spot, while sparking some healthy competition.

“There is competition for every single position, from goalkeeper to our front line,” Fletcher said. “I’m ready to see our team play somebody else, instead of kicking each other all day.”

The talented Golden Eagle squad will have its work cut out for it with a challenging 2009 schedule.

The Golden Eagles and Blue Raiders have met 11 times on the soccer field, with MTSU holding a 9-2 record over Tech. The teams last met in 2004.

“We’re excited to revive the rivalry again. MTSU is a good Sun Belt team, and historically a strong program.” Fletcher said. “We feel like it will be a very competitive match.”

After hosting UT Chattanooga next Friday, the Golden Eagles will hit the road for their next seven matches.

“Last year we made the OVC tournament for the first time in five years, and this year we can’t settle for that,” Fletcher said. “We want to take that a step further. We want to get better every time we step on the field, whether it’s for practice or a match. The goal is to peak at the right time, we want to be playing our best soccer at the end of the season.”

Admission is free for all Tech regular season home matches.