By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information
FLORENCE, Ala. – Dramatics took center stage for the Tennessee Tech soccer team Friday evening, as the Golden Eagles rallied late to secure a thrilling 2-1 overtime victory at North Alabama for the club's first win of 2019.
Freshman Bailey Taylor scored in the 84th minute to erase a 1-0 deficit and ultimately push the contest into overtime, before sophomore Cassidy Bereda split the pipes just over nine minutes into the extra session to cap off the riveting evening.
"We are certainly excited to come away with an overtime win on the road, especially the way in which we did after coming back late in regulation," TTU head coach Steve Springthorpe said. "What a match tonight. It was great to see us find a way to scrap and win the game in overtime after we've already had a couple of overtime games that ended in a tie this season. I thought it was overall a pretty evenly played contest between us and North Alabama, with two teams that like to keep the ball and play an attractive style of soccer."
Taylor's tying score, the freshman's second of the young season, came off of a service into the box that popped out to the 5-foot-6 rookie while she was surrounded by heavy traffic. Cool, calm and collected, Taylor stepped up and buried one into the back of the net to deadlock the score at 1-1.
Bereda's winner, the sophomore's first score of the year, came courtesy of ball from Tina Marolt for the senior's first assist of 2019. Marolt knocked one down in transition and connected with an open Bereda, who slotted it far post to give the Golden Eagles (1-2-2) the captivating victory.
"It was really a great play on Tina's part when you break it down," Springthorpe said. "She displayed great composure to take the ball down and calmly find the open player. Cass then did an awesome job to secure the pass and find the back of the net. It was a great shot and you have to be happy with the execution on both of their parts.
"Ultimately both goals were made possible because of our aggression, especially in the attacking third," Springthorpe continued. "We earned both goals with the amount of pressure we put on them and you definitely saw what Bailey's goal did for us in terms of momentum. We came out aggressive in overtime and ended up capitalizing on our opportunities."
After somewhat of a sluggish start in which the Golden Eagles were outshot 9-4 by North Alabama (2-3-0) in the first half, Tech turned it on after intermission and would go on to outshoot the Lions 10-7 for the duration of the contest, including 2-0 in overtime.
Sophomore Chloe Smith paced the purple and gold with a team-leading and season-high four shots, two of which were on-goal. Taylor notched three shots, while Bereda was the only other Golden Eagle with more than one attempt behind two tries. North Alabama's Charlotte Kellett had a match-high six shots.
"We came out a little slow tonight, but we had some players come in toward the end of the first half and they immediately made a huge impact for us. In fact, I thought they came in and helped turn the tide for our team," Springthorpe said. "We felt like we had momentum going into the second half and it showed with how many shots and chances we had. You could see our energy level change and that made all the difference in the world. The energy from our entire team, including the players on the bench, had an impact on tonight's outcome. It was huge for us."
Red-shirt junior Isabelle Austin helped keep the Golden Eagles in the thick of things, surviving an onslaught of early UNA tries, allowing just a penalty-kick goal by Shelby Wall in the 30th minute. In total, Austin halted seven shots, five of which occurred in the tilt's first stanza. Across the way, North Alabama's Jordyn Spreck collected three saves and yielded two scores.
"I'm proud of the way our team battled tonight," Springthorpe said. "We never stopped battling out there and it led to us getting an overtime win on the road. The kind of style and the type of energy we played with is what we will need to play with going forward. Tonight was exciting and I'm hopeful it propels us into our upcoming home matches."
Following a five-match road swing to begin the year, the Golden Eagles will make their 2019 home debut on Sunday at 1 p.m. against Appalachian State. The opener with the Mountaineers is the start of a five-match homestand, the longest in program history.
Admission to Tech Soccer Field is free of charge.
Photo by Tony Marable