By Dylan Vazzano, Sports Information Coordinator
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – It seemed only fitting that on Senior Day, the Tennessee Tech soccer team got goals from two of its seniors to help pave the way to a 2-0 victory over Eastern Illinois in the regular season home finale. The nod gives the Golden Eagles its 10th victory of the season, the first time Tech collects double-digit wins in a season since 2002, while TTU registers its sixth conference victory to match last year's program record.
Kalyn Pruett got the Golden Eagles (10-5-3, 6-1-2) off on the right foot with an unassisted goal in the 29th minute to break the scoreless deadlock, before fellow senior Abi Gearing essentially put the match on ice with a 74th minute score to jump Tech ahead, 2-0.
"I'm so happy with our seniors today," TTU head coach Steve Springthorpe said. "It was their day with the pre-game ceremony and celebration, and then the fact that we had two seniors score the goals to win the game was just such a fantastic moment for our team, and certainly for them."
Pruett's third goal of the season came after the Nashville native stole the ball and then split through two oncoming Panther defenders, just before rifling one underneath the cross bar. As far as Gearing is concerned, her team-best sixth goal came on a set piece late in the second half that saw junior Karigan Owens blast a free kick into the box, drilling right off the top of Gearing's head and into the back of the net. Owens added to her OVC lead with her eighth assist of the year.
Defensively, Tech stymied EIU (5-12-0, 2-7-0) in limiting the Panthers to only three shots for the match as the Golden Eagles tallied their conference-leading ninth shutout of 2016. TTU took 23 shots, second most in a match this season (26 against ETSU on Sep. 11).
"I thought we played well in what was a very professional type game out there," Springthorpe said. "I thought EIU defended us well and made it hard out there for us, but we found a way to break through to get a couple goals and create a decent amount of opportunities."
Sophomore Kari Naerdemann was forced into making only one save in the match, a Rachel Pappas header in the 64th minute. Naerdemann is now tied for the OVC lead with nine shutouts, registering her 16th of her TTU career. Freshman Sara Teteak notched six saves across the way.
TTU puts a ribbon on its regular season home slate with an impressive 7-1-1 record, going 5-0-0 in OVC contests at Tech Soccer Field.
"We've been really good at home and that's what you are supposed to do," Springthorpe noted. "I think the teams that want to do well and advance in the conference have to take care of their home matches, because it's so hard to play on the road. We've defended our home field pretty well, and going forward, if we can't find a way to get a top two seed, then maybe we will get another shot at defending our home field in the tournament."
Tech will head to Eastern Kentucky on Thursday for a 2 p.m. CT start time in Richmond, Ky. in the regular season finale. A Golden Eagle victory will ensure TTU a top two seed and a first round bye in the OVC Tournament.
Photo by Thomas Corhern