By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech soccer team unwrapped up its home slate on the right foot, as the Golden Eagles took advantage of two Bailey Taylor goals to help ignite the club to a 2-1 victory over Appalachian State Sunday afternoon in the home opener at Tech Soccer Field.
TTU (2-2-2) has now won back-to-back matches for the first time this season, following Friday night's dramatic 2-1 overtime nod at North Alabama. Sunday's victory opens up a five-match homestand, the longest in program history.
"We've been on the road forever it seems like so to have the chance to come home and have a few here in a row now is something we are looking forward to," Tech head coach Steve Springthorpe said. "To get a big win against App State today is great for us. I thought they played pretty well today, especially when they went down a player. They made it tough on us, but we prevailed at the end. I'm happy with the way we things turned out today and am proud of the way we fought."
A mere 36 seconds into the second half and already trailing 1-0, App State (1-4-1) collected a red card after Jessica Easley tripped up a streaking Kendall Powell from behind. Despite playing with 10 for the remainder of the match, the Mountaineers found the equalizer on a corner-kick score in the 54th minute. Kristin Dawson's corner connected off the lid of Ava Dawson and into the back of the net to square the contest at 1-1.
The Golden Eagles were not fazed. Just over 11 minutes later, in the 65th minute, Tech struck back behind Bailey Taylor's second goal of the match and fourth of the season. Freshman Kendall Webb started the scoring march with a feed to sophomore Chloe Smith, who then created space before finding Taylor on the left side of the box. With the ball at her feet, the Golden Eagle rookie drilled one off the far post and into the back of the net to give Tech a 2-1 edge.
Webb and Smith were both credited with assists on the play.
Taylor, who now has three goals in the last two matches, broke a scoreless deadlock early in the first half with a score in the 16th minute. The Powell, Tenn. product received a pass from sophomore Cassidy Bereda, before smoking one inside the near post for the tilt's first goal. Bereda, one of the heroes of Friday night's match at North Alabama with the game-winning score in overtime, collected her second assist of the season.
"Bailey's been great this year," Springthorpe said, when asked about the play of the freshman forward. "She's really starting to come along the last couple of games. As a freshman when you first start playing at this level you have to figure things out a little bit, but the last two games she's found her way with a goal on Friday, and then of course, two goals today. She is finding her groove lately and I'm happy for what Bailey is doing early on in the season."
Taylor led all players in the contest with five shots, three of which were on-goal. Senior Nora Vicsek collected three shots, two of which were on-point including a drive in the 10th minute that came within inches of putting the Golden Eagle ahead 1-0, but was halted thanks to a diving stop by freshman Kerry Eagleston to keep the match scoreless. Eagleston ended the afternoon with seven saves and Ava Dawson led the Mountaineers with four shots, all on-goal.
Isabelle Austin secured her second-straight victory behind three saves.
18 different Golden Eagles appeared in the match, including the 2019 season debut of sophomore Kaylee Sunders, who finished third on last year's team with 1,561 minutes played as a freshman.
"We showed some more resiliency today, which is something you're excited to see if you are a coach," Springthore said. "If you look at this game and the previous one against North Alabama where we had to come back late in the game, we are showing that we can handle tough situations. Giving up that second-half goal today was disappointing, but we found a way to turn the page, get the lead back and then close out the game. Even though our season is only six games in, we are in a good place going into next weekend."
Tech will continue its season-long and program record five-match homestand with a pair of contests to conclude non-conference play over the weekend. The Golden Eagles greet Evansville on Friday, Sept. 13 at 7 p.m. CT, before saying hello to Lipscomb on Sunday, Sept. 15 at 6 p.m.
Admission to both matches at Tech Soccer Field is free of charge.
Photo by Thomas Corhern