By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information
ATLANTA, Ga. – A dramatic finish and a history-making performance was the story in the Tennessee Tech soccer team's season opener. A Kendall Powell goal inside the final 10 minutes proved to be the difference, while Kari Naerdemann put herself in rarified air with another stellar showing in between the pipes to help lead the Golden Eagles to a 1-0 victory Friday evening at Georgia State.
With three saves and another shutout added to her robust resume, senior Kari Naerdemann broke a pair of distinguished program and conference records. Tonight's win was the 29th in her career, breaking a tie with Carly King (2001-04) for the most victories in program history, while the Herne, Germany native's latest blanking moved her past SEMO's Lindsay Pickering (2005-07) and SIUE's Jennifer Pelly (2012-15) for the most career shutouts in OVC history with 29.
"Congratulations to Kari tonight for setting both the program win's record and the OVC's career shutout record, what a fantastic accomplishment," TTU head coach Steve Springthorpe said. "She's been amazing over the course of the last three years and played well tonight. Both records are credited to Kari, but I know how thankful she is to have a team that worked hard for her to accomplish this feat."
Sophomore Kendall Powell played a pivotal role in Naerdemann's march toward history, providing the Golden Eagles (1-0-0) with all the heroics needed after breaking a scoreless deadlock in the 81st minute for the tilt's lone goal. Powell, who had four game-winning goals in her rookie campaign to tie the program's single-season record, wasted no time in collecting her first winner of 2018 behind a drive from just outside the box after the Cookeville native received a throw-in from sophomore Katie Bain.
"I'm proud of our team's effort tonight, especially in the second half once we settled into the game," Tech head coach Steve Springthorpe said. "We showed a great deal of resolve tonight and were able to withstand the pressure Georgia State was putting on us. Once we found a way to score, we were able to sew things up and preserve the victory over the last eight minutes."
Powell's goal proved to be more than enough thanks to a sturdy Golden Eagle defensive effort that limited the Panthers (0-1-0) to six total shots, only three of which were on-goal. Tech tightened the clamps in the second half, allowing only two shots throughout the match's final 45 minutes for the club's sixth-straight regular-season shutout after finishing 2017 with five consecutive regular-season goose eggs.
"Overall, I thought our defense was good but we are definitely still learning," Springthorpe said. "We basically have an entire new back line outside of Rachel [Blow]. We made some mistakes tonight but will continue to improve with more time under our belt."
Tina Marolt tied her TTU career-high with four shots to help pace a Tech offense that generated five of its six shots after intermission. Kendall Powell and freshman Ashley Grimes accounted for the other two Golden Eagle shots.
Brooke Shank led the Panthers with two shots, one of which was on-goal. GSU goalkeeper Maddie Card did not make a save in the match, with Powell's score serving as the only Tech shot on-goal.
"I'm happy about our effort and the way we worked out there tonight," Springthorpe said. "We didn't have a lot of subs, so a lot of our players had to stay out there for a while, but everyone played hard and with a great deal of pride. Even the players that were unable to get into the game had a lot of energy, especially in the second half when we seemed to figure things out. It was a great team victory that everyone was a part of."
The Golden Eagles will close out their season-opening road trip with a stop at Lipscomb Sunday evening. First kick from Nashville is slated for 6 p.m. CT.
Photo by Thomas Corhern