By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information Coordinator
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Fresh off its first win of the 2013 campaign, the Golden Eagle soccer team sets its sight on just one match this week, a Sunday evening clash at Middle Tennessee State University to kick off at 5 p.m. CDT. The affair will close out a four-match road swing for Tech, and with a win, the Golden Eagles will come away with an even split in the quartet of tilts.
Tech (1-5-0) will march into Murfreesboro, Tenn. after posting a 1-1 record last weekend thanks to a 3-1 nod over the University of Findlay on Friday, and a 2-0 loss against Ball State on Sunday. For fourth-year head coach Daniel Brizard, earning that first win should prove to pay dividends going forward.
“I think getting that first one did a lot of things for us,” Brizard said. “It gave us some confidence and showed that we have the ability to get it done. We have been so close in many of our matches so it was nice to get the win and get the monkey off our back.”
Friday’s match featured a pair of Ellie Iaciofano goals to give the senior from Loveland, Ohio a team-leading three on the young season, but it was the dynamic freshmen duo of Abi Gearing and Ashlyn Flaherty that helped put Tech over the top. Gearing notched her first collegiate score in the 59th minute, with Flaherty responsible for the assist on the play to push TTU to a 2-0 lead.
“It was great for Abi to get her first goal, she is going to basically fill in the role that Ellie is going to vacate after this year so it’s important for us to give her some minutes in that role” Brizard said on the play of his talented freshman forward. “As far as Ashlyn is concerned, that’s what we brought her here for. She might not get the goals herself, but she is the type of player that’s crafty and can set up goals.”
Sunday’s 2-0 loss to a good Ball State team marked the first time all season that the Golden Eagles lost by more than just one goal. The win pushed BSU to 4-1 on the year, as the Cardinals have allowed only two goals in 450 minutes this season.
“I think we are just frustrated because we know that in some of these games we could do better but just haven’t put it all together yet,” Brizard said on his team’s perspective three weeks into the year. “It’s like having a puzzle. Even if you are missing a couple of pieces, you still have to find a way to do the puzzle. The girls know they can do it, and we know they can do it. It’s just about transitioning what we do in training and practice and taking it onto the field during games.”
Middle Tennessee enters Sunday’s matchup without a win in 2013, coming in with an overall mark of 0-3-2. Before Tech takes its place inside Dean A. Hayes Track and Soccer Stadium, the Blue Raiders will welcome in the University of Tennessee on Friday night, kicking off a five-match, three-weekend home stand.
Middle Tennessee has had its hands full trying to split the pipes this season, scoring just two goals in five matches, as freshman Rachael Figg and sophomore Kate Loye are responsible for doing the honors. That being said, Brizard is well aware of the challenge that the Blue Raiders pose.
“The game against MTSU is going to be a battle, it’s always a battle and it’s just a good rivalry,” Brizard said. “Two of the three games since I have been here have been really, really tight.”
Last year’s tilt in Cookeville on Sept. 7 saw Middle Tennessee walk away with a 3-2 victory, breaking a 2-2 tie in the 54th minute. Ellie Iaciofano carried TTU offensively with two goals, and senior Taylor Hicks and junior Chelsea Ladd each earned an assist. Sophomore goalkeeper Jordan Brown tabbed eight saves in what was her freshman campaign.
This year Brown currently sits atop the Ohio Valley Conference with 49 stops. Middle Tennessee’s keeper, sophomore Kelsey Brouwer, is also a conference leader in saves, setting the Conference USA pace with 34.
MTSU leads the all-time series 13-2-0.