By Dylan Vazzano, Sports Information Coordinator
TROY, Ala. – Trekking away from Cookeville for the first time this season, the Tennessee Tech soccer team was tripped up 5-0 to South Alabama in the first of two in the 2014 Trojan Classic hosted by Troy University.
The matchup against a stellar Jaguar (2-1-0) club that captured last season's Sun Belt Conference Championship en route to earning a bid in the NCAA Tournament unfolded into a tale of two halves. For the first 43 minutes and change, the Golden Eagles (0-2-0) held strong defensively in keeping an aggressive South Alabama attack that produced 27 total shots off the board, until a late score changed the tide right before intermission.
With just over a minute remaining in the first stanza, Jaguar junior Jordan Duncan split the pipes on a feed from freshman Danielle Henley to result in the first goal of the afternoon.
"First of all congratulations to South Alabama, they played well and our hats off to them," first-year Tech head coach Steve Springthopre said moments after the final whistle. "In regards to our team, I thought we played a very strong first half. Unfortunately they got a late goal which was deflating, but something we can learn from. We need to bunker down in the last five minutes of a half or the last five minutes after a goal, and we saw that today."
The Golden Eagles regrouped at the break, continuing to fend off the aggression of the Jaguars for the first 12 minutes of the second half, until South Alabama struck again in the 59th minute. This time it was freshman Charde Hannah that found an open slot in the bottom left corner of the net for the Tupelo, Miss. native's second score of the season, using a Rio Hardy through ball to push the Jaguars advantage to 2-0.
South Alabama would tack on three additional goals before it was all said and done, including two more from Jordan Duncan, one in the 77th minute off of a counterattack and one in the 87th minute off a Sophie Haywood pass to give the 5-foot-6 forward a hat trick on the afternoon. The aforementioned Danielle Henley produced the other Jaguar goal, finding the back of the net in the 76th minute to wrap up a three-point performance.
"I thought we were pretty organized in the early stages of the second half, but once they came up with the second goal of the period we had to change some things which opened the door for a few more scores," Springthorpe noted on his team's play in the second half. "Ultimately we are a young team that is still learning. I'm pleased with our effort and fight, we just need to find a way to play more than just a 65-70 minute game and put it together for all 90."
The Golden Eagles played 16 in the affair, including five that played the entire 90 minutes in seniors Rebecca Toler, Katie Phillips, and Kesley McGohan, junior Taylor Sutton, and freshman Mary Francis Hoots, while sophomore Kalyn Pruett and freshman Cassidy Ortman played in at least 75 minutes of action.
Rebecca Toler started in her second consecutive match in net to begin the season, recording nine saves throughout the tilt.
Tech will be right back at it on Sunday, concluding the 2014 Trojan Classic with a matchup against the host team Troy. Kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. CT.