By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech soccer team is on the road for the final time in the regular season, heading north for a pair of OVC weekend clashes. On Friday the Golden Eagles will be at the defending OVC Tournament champion, SIUE, for a 7 p.m. CT first kick, before tying a ribbon on its away slate Sunday afternoon at Eastern Illinois. First kick with the Panthers is set for 1 p.m.
Friday's match will be broadcast live on the OVC Digital Network. Click here to watch.
Tech (6-4-1, 3-1-1) enters its final road trip of the regular season on a heater, currently riding a four-match unbeaten streak following a 1-0, overtime loss at SEMO on Sept. 15. TTU is coming off a perfect weekend, equipped with its fair share of in-state bragging rights as the Golden Eagles topped Belmont, 2-1, on Sept. 29 in Nashville, before securing a 2-1 win over Austin Peay on Oct. 1 at Tech Soccer Field.
The back-to-back two-goal efforts marked the first two tilts in which the Golden Eagles have clipped the back of the net more than once in the match. Junior Mayra Tarraga Manzanal helped pace the uptick in scoring, collecting two goals and an assist en route to a five-point weekend.
Senior Karigan Owens notched a combined three assists in the wins over the Bruins and Governors, giving the La Grange, Ky. native 16 for her career to move into a third-place tie with TTU Hall of Famer, Jill Burns. Owens also helped play a pivotal role in Tech's defensive effort that limited each in-state foe to just one goal, a crucial factor in the 5-foot-9 senior's nod as the OVC Defensive Player of the Week, earned Tuesday afternoon.
The Golden Eagles lead the OVC in goals allowed with just seven in 11 matches. Tech also sits atop the conference in goals against average (0.62) and is knotted with Murray State for first in the league with five shutouts.
Junior goalkeeper Kari Naerdemann still leads the OVC with a .875 save percentage, and with five shutouts this year, the two-time OVC Defensive Player of the Year has 23 throughout her career in purple and gold.
Tech is currently in third place in the conference with 10 points. Eastern Kentucky (14) and Murray State (13) are sitting No. 1 and No. 2 in the league respectively, with the pair of clubs set to meet Thursday night in Richmond.
SIUE is tied with Belmont for fourth place, having dropped two of the last three matches after a 2-0 OVC start. Freshman MacKenzie Litzsinger leads the Cougars (5-6-1, 3-2-0) with four goals, while senior Emily Grahl is the club-leader with four assists. Senior Juli Rossi has played in all but 19:29 minutes in net this season, making 51 saves and allowing 20 goals for a .718 save percentage.
Tech holds a 4-3 edge in the all-time series with SIUE. The Golden Eagles bested the Cougars, 2-1, last year in Cookeville.
Before hosting Tech, Eastern Illinois will welcome Jacksonville State to Lakeside Field for a 3 p.m. Friday first kick with the Gamecocks. The Panthers (5-8-1, 0-5) are in search of their first OVC win.
EIU has a quartet of players with three goals, as junior Kate Olson and sophomores Hannah Heinz, Henar Urtega and Sarah DeWolf have each collected a trio of scores. A pair of Panthers has played between the pipes this year, with sophomores Sara Teteak and Maddie Lyon combining for the work in net. Teteak has notched 33 saves and surrendered 14 goals for a .702 save percentage, and Lyon has made 23 saves and yielded nine goals for a .719 save percentage.
EIU leads the all-time series, 17-4-5. TTU did secure a 2-0 victory over the Panthers last year in Cookeville.
Photo by Tony Marable