By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Ohio Valley Conference play has arrived for the Tennessee Tech soccer team, as the Golden Eagles are set to launch into their 10-match conference slate over the weekend. Tech is staring at a pair of road clashes, beginning with a Friday affair at Southeast Missouri at 6:30 p.m. CT, before wrapping up the OVC's first weekend with a Sunday afternoon battle at Jacksonville State at 1 p.m.
The Golden Eagles (3-3-0) are smack dab in the middle of a season-long, four-match road trip that kicked off with a pair of losses in Alabama over the weekend. Two quick scores in an eight-minute stretch midway through the first half served as the difference in a 2-0 defeat at UAB on Sept. 8, while a TTU own goal in the sixth minute at the University of Alabama spelled trouble in a 1-0 loss on Sept. 10.
Despite the blanking at Alabama, Tech's defense proved to be lights out yet again in holding the Tide to a season-low tying 13 shots, nearly six under their nightly average of 18.9. Overall, TTU's four goals allowed this season is the lowest yielded in the conference and UAB's two scores against the Golden Eagles is only the second time in a span of 25 matches in which an opponent has scored more than one goal against Tech.
TTU leaps into its conference schedule with 12 OVC wins over the last two seasons, the most in a two-year window in program history. Tech has finished in the top three in the conference in each of the last two seasons, the first time the Golden Eagles have ended in the top three in the OVC in back-to-back years since 2000-01.
Southeast Missouri hosts Tech on the heels of a three-match losing streak, though the last two tilts for the Redhawks (3-4-0) have been against Louisville (Sept. 4) and Mississippi State (Sept. 8). After a trip to the OVC Tournament championship match in 2015, SEMO missed out on the last year's playoff picture with a 3-4-3 conference mark.
Seniors Maggie Pike and Maddy Cornell have each found the back of the net twice this season to lead the Redhawks. Fellow senior Kindra Lierz has been in net for six of the club's seven matches, surrendering seven goals and making 18 saves for a .720 save-percentage.
SEMO leads the all-time series, 13-6-2, however the Golden Eagles bested the Redhawks last year behind a 1-0 victory in Cookeville.
Jacksonville State will be at UT Martin Friday night, before returning home to host Tech in the first of three consecutive in Jacksonville, Ala. The Gamecocks (3-3-2) ended their non-conference slate with a two-match split over the weekend down in Louisiana, knocking off Louisiana-Monroe, 2-0, on Sept. 8, before falling, 2-0, at Louisiana Tech on Sept. 10.
A third-place finish in 2015, JSU went 2-8 in OVC play last season.
Sophomore Danielle Monroe paces the Gamecocks scoring with a team-best five goals, a mark that puts the Villa Rica, Ga. native in third place in the OVC. Senior Caroline Robinson has played each and every minute between the pipes this year for Jacksonville State and has allowed 12 goals while collecting 26 saves for a .684 save-percentage.
JSU narrowly leads the all-time series, 7-5-4, but Tech did claim a 2-1 in the last meeting in Cookeville a season ago.
Photo by Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information