By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Two second-half scores erased an early set back as the Tennessee Tech soccer team registered a come-from-behind 2-1 win over East Tennessee State in the club's 2018 home opener. ETSU (0-3-0) found the back of the net just over two minutes into the match, but behind second-stanza goals from Molly Kafader and Marta Moreno, as well as a sturdy defensive showing that limited the Bucs to only six shots in the match, the Golden Eagles seized the nail-biting victory.
With the win, Tech (2-1-0) extends its unbeaten streak at home to 15 in a row, a streak dating back to early September 2016.
"We are definitely excited about getting a win in the home opener, especially in the nature in which we did tonight," TTU head coach Steve Springthorpe said. "To be able to come back from a goal down shows a lot of character. I thought we had some real good individual quality play from a number of players tonight that culminated in the whole group playing well together."
Trailing 1-0 in the 59th minute, Molly Kafader teamed up with Rachel Blow on a set piece that resulted in the equalizer. Blow lined up one of Tech's seven second-half corners and connected with Kafader, who headed it into the back of the net for her second career score. Blow's assist was also the second in her TTU tenure.
Mere minutes later, Tech was at it again, using the services of one of the newest Golden Eagles to put the club ahead in the 65th minute. Playing in her first collegiate match, freshman Marta Moreno drilled a missile from 30 yards out that was perfectly placed into the top left corner of the net for the Madrid, Spain native's first career goal.
"In the short amount of time Marta played tonight you could definitely see the impact she made," Springthopre said, reflecting on Moreno's heroics. "We are excited that she is here and is already helping us. We are looking forward to seeing what she can do once she gets a little more time under her belt and incorporates herself into this team a little bit better."
"As far as Molly's goal is concerned, that was awesome to see," Springthorpe continued. "It was a great service by Rachel and then Molly found a way to hammer it home. Not only did it get us back into the game, but it seemed to ignite us as we just kept pushing and pushing after that goal."
East Tennessee State jumped on the board immediately into the match thanks to a Rachel Harbin goal just over two minutes in. After receiving a pair of passes from Delaney Griffin and Sarah Connolly, the Buccaneer senior midfielder smoked one from the right of the goal that just snuck under the crossbar and into the back of the net. Harbin would go on to lead all ETSU players with three shots in the contest, while Griffin and Connolly were each credited with assists on the early goal.
"We've done that a couple of times this season where we haven't come out strong, but those are learning moments for our team that we need to figure out," Springthorpe said. "That being said, I'm happy with the way we got after it for the last 30 minutes of the first half and the entire second half. In the second half especially I thought we were all over it."
Not only did the Golden Eagles set a season high with two goals, but Tech's 10 shots were also a season best after combining for 11 in the first two matches at Georgia State and Lipscomb. Sophomore Kendall Powell notched a career-high six shots to lead all players in the match. The Cookeville native put four on-goal, one more than the entire ETSU club, and nearly gave the Golden Eagles some insurance in the 80th minute, but her drive deflected off the crossbar.
Kari Naerdemann made two saves in the match en route to becoming the first goalkeeper in program history to hit the 30-win plateau in a career. ETSU's Lea Ann Cutshall recorded four saves, all courtesy of Kendall Powell shots on-goal.
Tech will wrap up its first home stand of the year Sunday evening as the Golden Eagles welcome North Alabama to Cookeville for a 6 p.m. CT first kick. Admission to all Tech home regular season matches is free of charge.
Photo by Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information