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August 31, 2011

Golden Eagles stare down strong competition at Adidas Gamecock Soccer Classic

Tech can pull to above .500 with wins

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Tech travels to the 3rd Annual Adidas Gamecock Soccer Classic this weekend carrying the momentum from back-to-back road victories with them.

After an 0-2 start to the season, the Golden Eagles evened things back to .500 with victories at East Tennessee and UNC Asheville on their first road swing of the year last weekend.

Moving above .500 for the first time in second-year head coach Daniel Brizard’s tenure at Tech this weekend won’t be an easy task, however — the Golden Eagles will face some of the toughest competition they’ll see this season at the Jacksonville State-hosted event.

TTU faces two Western Athletic Conference squads, squaring off against Louisiana Tech on Friday at 5 p.m. before taking on New Mexico State at noon on Sunday.

Brizard said he feels his team’s confidence is high coming off consecutive wins in which they scored six goals.

“I think they’re starting to feel some confidence,” he said. “I think the girls are starting to buy into our style and see the productiveness of it. We got over a huge speed bump by winning our road matches this weekend. Friday’s game, we had to dig it out and hold on for the win and really show some grit and determination. On Sunday, I thought we could have put a few more in the back of the net, but I was happy with the result.”

As for this weekend, Brizard said he wants to see his team stand toe-to-toe against the strong competition they will face.

“Obviously we’re hoping to go 2-0,” he said. “But if we pull one of them out and battle really hard for the other, I think that would be a really successful weekend for the girls.”

GOLDEN EAGLE NOTES

-  Junior forward Jacquie Watkins scored two of Tech’s four goals against UNC Asheville on Sunday, becoming the first Golden Eagle to score multiple goals in a game since Jen Hoffman netted three in a 3-2 overtime win over Eastern Illinois in the first round of the 2009 OVC Tournament.

- Sophomore goalkeeper Becca Toler earned her first ever OVC Goalkeeper of the Week honors for her performances in last weekend’s wins. Toler spread 10 saves over two victories and allowed just one live-action goal in 180 minutes of action.

- Senior center back Lindsey Reed also played an integral role in limiting the offense of Tech’s opponents in last weekend’s wins, stepping up her play to account for the absence of defensive starter Leigh Heffner, who missed the UNC Asheville game to tend to an academic-related matter.

“She played excellent,” Brizard said of Reed. “She picked up her game when we were missing a veteran on the back line. She was begin assertive, being our captain, and really played above herself. She found an extra gear in some of the footraces and didn’t make any mistakes that cost us.”

 SCOUTING LOUISIANA TECH

The Golden Eagles will be looking to avenge a 3-2 double overtime loss to Louisiana Tech in Cookeville last season. This year, LA Tech is off to a 3-1-1 start coming into the Adidas Gamecock Soccer Classic.

Louisiana Tech is a stingy defensive club that has posted shutouts in four of its five games this season, allowing just two goals on the year. The Techsters lead the WAC in several defensive categories, including goals allowed per game (0.40) and goals against average (0.38).

Louisiana Tech also leads the WAC in most offensive categories and have been an aggressive club, taking an average of 19.6 shots per game. Louisiana Tech also leads their conference in points per game (7.40) and goals per game (2.60).

LA Tech’s wins have come against South Alabama and Troy while their only loss came at the hands off in-state foe McNeese State.

Three players lead the Techsters in goals with two apiece while sophomore Taylor Dennis is the school’s assists leader with three. Goalkeeper Caitlin Updyke owns a goals-against average of 0.42 and has 13 saves on the season.

Tech is 0-1 all-time against Louisiana Tech.

SCOUTING NEW MEXICO STATE

New Mexico State is an even 2-2 and has won two consecutive games after beginning the 2011 season with consecutive losses.

The Aggies have scored an average of 1.5 goals per game while allowing 0.75. They have earned victories over Prairie View A&M and Houston Baptist while suffering losses to UTEP and Texas Tech.

New Mexico State has scored six goals on the season, all of which have come from different players. Junior defender Yolanda McMillion leads the Aggies in assists with two. NMSU goalkeeper Erin Wosick owns a goals-against average of 0.60 and an .850 saves percentage.

This will be Tech’s first-ever meeting with New Mexico State.

“They’re an unknown, but it will be fun to play a team from a different conference, different part of the country than what we would normally see,” Brizard said. “Sometimes the less we know about a team, the better off we are because we can focus on us.”