By Dylan Vazzano, Sports Information Coordinator
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech soccer team saw its stingy defense carry the way once again, pacing the Golden Eagles to a 1-0 shutout win over SIU Edwardsville that officially clinched a spot in the OVC Tournament. Tech (9-5-3, 5-1-2) punches its ticket into the playoff field for the second-straight season, the first time the Golden Eagles have made it in back-to-back years since 2008-09.
TTU's latest blanking makes it a league-best eight shutouts in 2016, halting an SIUE attack that came in with an OVC-leading 25 goals and 74 points. Sophomore Kari Naerdemann was kept busy with eight saves recorded on the afternoon, tied for the second most this season. The Herne, Germany native's eighth shutout of the year was also the 15th of her career to become the program's all-time career leader in shutouts.
"It was an important game for both sides, and we knew coming in that SIUE is a great team," TTU head coach Steve Springthorpe said. "We just played the best that we possibly could and battled with them. We are happy to come out of it with a deserved win."
Tech also leapfrogs the Cougars (7-6-3, 5-2-1) in the standings, who came into the day in second-place in the conference, holding one of the league's two first round byes in the OVC Tournament.
"To clinch a spot in the OVC Tournament is the first goal," Springthorpe continued. "The first goal is getting into the top six and that was the focus for us today. We knew we had the No. 2 team coming in here and knew we were a few spots behind and wanted to make sure we solidified a spot in the top six by getting enough points, and we did that today. Now the next thing is we play on Sunday and we will see if we can better our seeding."
Freshman Nora Vicsek continued her string of game-winning goals after the 5-foot-6 forward notched her third consecutive with the tilt's only score. Vicsek's net-finder came in the 32nd minute after receiving a perfect ball from sophomore Mayra Tarraga Manzanal, who earned an assist on the play, along with senior Julia Rebollo after starting the initial surge. Vicsek now has four goals in her rookie season, all of which are game-winning goals to move into a tie for second most in the OVC.
"She's just in a good zone right now," Springthorpe said, referencing Vicsek's recent heroic efforts. "The first in this string of game winners gave her a lot of confidence and she's just making the most of her opportunities. But we've got to talk about the ball that Mayra put on to Nora. It was an unbelievable ball chipped over the top to her running on. It was a great combination play for us and I'm happy for Nora."
SIUE sophomore goalkeeper Natalie Freeman collected two saves.
The Golden Eagles were outshot, 9-5, including 4-1 in the second half. Junior Karigan Owens paced Tech with two shots, while SIUE freshman Peyton Roehnelt led the match with three shots.
TTU will end its 2016 regular season home slate Sunday afternoon, welcoming Eastern Illinois for a 1 p.m. CT start time. Sunday's match is Senior Day and will feature a special pre-match ceremony honoring Tech's five seniors, Abi Gearing, Kalyn Pruett, Julia Rebollo, Marissa Rouse and Emily Williams, along with team manager, Paige Overstreet.
Photo by Thomas Corhern