By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech soccer team is headed back to the OVC Tournament semifinals.
By virtue of a 1-0 win over UT Martin in Sunday's regular season finale, the Golden Eagles finish the regular season in second place, earn a double-bye in the conference playoff tournament and stamp their ticket to Murray, Ky. with the program's third-straight trip the tourney's final four.
Tech (9-4-3, 6-1-3 OVC) also extends an already program record unbeaten streak to nine in a row, while the club's shutout over the Skyhawks marked the fifth-straight TTU blanking, a new school record as well. The Golden Eagles end the regular season without allowing a goal in the last 577 minutes, the longest streak in program history.
"I am so proud of our team and the effort we have given all year," Tech head coach Steve Springthorpe said. "Today we had an opportunity sew up second place in the conference and took care of it in what is usual style for us I guess with a 1-0 win. We've had a few of those this season where we find a goal at some point and defend well. I'm really happy for our team and the way we played today."
Prior to the contest, Tech honored its senior class with a special pre-match Senior Day ceremony, yet it was a freshman who jump-started the Golden Eagles shortly into the tilt. A mere five and a half minutes in, Kendall Powell collected a pass from Nora Vicsek, before blasting one into the back of the net to give TTU a 1-0 edge.
Powell's club-leading fourth goal, and second in the last three matches, pushes the Cookeville native to a team-best 10 points in her rookie campaign. Vicsek captured her first assist of the season, while Molly Kafader tabbed one as well after starting the scoring try by winning a header and feeding Vicsek.
After the early score, the Golden Eagle defense took it from there, blanking the Skyhawks (6-10-3, 4-5-1 OVC) with just three shots on-goal against them. Overall, UT Martin took 10 shots, equaling Tech's 10 across the way. Skyhawk junior Amy McGivern paced the match with four shots, while Kendall Powell led the TTU charge with three attempts.
Kari Naerdemann registered two saves en route to her 28th career shutout, tying the OVC all-time career record, shared by SEMO's Lindsay Pickering (2005-07) and SIUE's Jennifer Pelly (2012-25). The Herne, Germany native also collected her 28th career victory, knotting Tech's Carly King (2001-04) for the most in program history.
UTM freshman goalkeeper Erica Myers made three saves following the early goal by Powell.
Tech's back line of sophomore Rachel Blow and seniors Lauren Brewer, Mary Francis Hoots and Karigan Owens did not leave the field. The Golden Eagles managed to play all seven senior players with Cassidy Ortman, Michaella Keyes, Alyssa Montgomery and McKenzie McCloud all entering the match off the bench.
"They mean an awful lot to this program," Springthorpe said, in regards to TTU's senior class. "The things they have accomplished the last four years, specifically the last three years, have been huge. They have carried our team and it's been from the players that have played a ton of minutes to the ones that have been serious role players for us. They've all bonded together and led our team to the point that we are now. It's great to see our seniors go out with a victory in their last home game."
Tech ties a ribbon on its home slate that saw an unbeaten mark of 6-0-1 in Cookeville this year. The Golden Eagles have gone unbeaten at home in 14 straight dating back to early September of last season.
"We've played really well here and have come to a point where our team loves playing on this field and in front of our fans," Springthorpe claimed. "The surface suits how we play and our team is always excited about playing here. Kudos and a big thank you have to go to our facilities staff, who keeps this field in the best shape that they can. It's unfortunate we can't have the final four here, but that's what it is. We will go up to Murray again and see what happens."
With its third-straight trip to the OVC Tournament semifinals, Tech will head to Murray State (host of the tournament) for its playoff match on Nov. 3. The championship match is scheduled for Nov. 5.
Photo by Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information