By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information Coordinator
MURRAY, Ky. – It was an evening chock full of purple and gold, as the Tennessee Tech soccer team's presence was without a doubt felt at this year's Ohio Valley Conference Awards Banquet. Not only were the Golden Eagles well represented with six different players receiving postseason hardware, but behind the selection of junior Kari Naerdemann as the 2017 OVC Defensive Player of the Year, history was made.
Naerdemann becomes the first player ever in conference history to win the Defensive Player of the Year accolade on three separate occasions, let alone three straight years after claiming the coveted honor in each of the last two seasons as well. The Herne, Germany native also reserved a spot on the All-OVC first team, one of two Golden Eagles on this year's prestigious list, joining senior Lauren Brewer, who makes it two consecutive years as a first teamer in her own right.
Fellow senior Karigan Owens and junior Mayra Tarraga Manzanal stamped their tickets on the All-OVC second team, the third-straight year on the second team for Owens, while junior Tina Marolt and freshman Kendall Powell secured spots on the conference's All-Newcomer team.
"We were well represented within the conference and are excited for those players and for the team as a whole to be honored in this fashion," TTU head coach Steve Springthorpe said, on this year's haul. "The coaches and media of the OVC see the quality of those particular individuals and the seasons that they've had, so it's definitely a great honor for them. Of course with the way we've played this year, there are some other players that you can make the case are deserving of some of those honors as well, but ultimately with as many players as we had take home awards, it really shows the kind of year our entire team has had."
Kari Naerdemann, who also becomes Tech's second ever three-time All-OVC first-team recipient alongside Kelli McCoy (1998-2000), put together a historical regular season that saw the 5-foot-9 goalkeeper lead the conference in a number of significant defensive categories. Naerdemann's 0.42 goals against average, .896 save percentage and 10 shutouts are all tops in the OVC.
With the Golden Eagles in the OVC Tournament semifinals, Naerdemann is on pace to break last year's program record of a 0.59 goals against average and a .869 save percentage. Overall, the dynamic junior's 28 career shutouts have already tied the conference's all-time mark, and her 28 career victories have matched Carly King (2001-04) for the most wins in program history.
"It's really great to see Kari get recognized for another outstanding season," Springthorpe said. "She's found a way to get better every year and some of the numbers she put up this season are pretty remarkable. Of course a ton of credit goes to her and the way she played this season, but also the way the team and the defenders have played in front of her. You also have to give credit to [assistant coach] Kelsey [Brouwer] for coming in here and developing a great relationship with Kari. She pushed her to strive to be even better than what she was and has done a fantastic job training and preparing her this year."
Lauren Brewer takes home All-OVC first team honors for the second-straight season after helping anchor TTU's back line for a defense that led the conference with only seven goals surrendered in 16 matches. For the second year in a row, the Crestwood, Ky. native did not leave the pitch at any point, tallying all 1,504 minutes between the lines while also providing leadership as one of Tech's team captains.
"Lauren has had another tremendous season this year," Springthorpe said. "She took home first team honors last year, and if it's possible, I think she may have even put together a better season this year. She's a close down defender and picks up where we fault sometimes in the back. Lauren is a big part of the success we've had on defense and has been huge for us this year. There are so many key players on our defense that I wish could be recognized, especially with what so many of them mean to our team, but it's definitely great to see Lauren earn an honor of this magnitude. She's been fantastic this year."
Karigan Owens takes home All-OVC second team honors for the third-consecutive season, the first ever Golden Eagle to hold that distinction. One of five Tech players to appear in over 1,400 minutes this season, Owens served as a key component in the league's top defense that has not yielded a goal in the last 577 minutes, a program record.
Offensively, the La Grange, Ky. proved to be just as impressive, thanks to a tie for the club lead with four assists, while also finding the back of the net once as well. With her four assists, all of which came in the last seven contests, Owens moved into sole possession of third place on the all-time Tech list with 17 assists during her TTU tenure.
"She's had a great season and really a fantastic career here," Springthorpe claimed. "I mean some of the things that she does on the field have been instrumental to the success of our team. Karigan finds a way to create on serves, and with the way she strikes the ball out of the back, has been so vital to us. She deserves to be All-Conference, and of course I wish she could find a way to be on the first team, but if you look at it, it's three defenders on the first team and three on the second team, so she's in the top six defenders in the league."
Mayra Tarraga Manzanal takes home her first career All-OVC honor with her place on this year's second team after starting in all 16 matches during the regular season. The 5-foot-2 midfielder has played in over 1,350 minutes during the year, and is in a tie for second on the club with two goals and six points.
"Mayra has been great since she's been here, and really since she's arrived she's been an important player for us out of the midfield," Springthorpe noted. "Over the last few years our team typically hasn't scored a lot of goals, so the statistical side of the equation hasn't really been there for Mayra, but this year that's changed. She has become more attack oriented and has done what we've asked her to do as a coaching staff. Mayra is very good player and I think the more people watch her, the more they understand the level in which she plays and how crucial she is to our team."
Tina Marolt and Kendall Powell make it the first time that TTU has placed a pair on the All-Newcomer team in the same season since 2009, a year that saw Andrea Meloff and Kris Cambron both appear on it. Marolt hardly left the field during the regular season, playing 1,424 of a possible 1,504 minutes on the year. The Louisville transfer tied Karigan Owens for the most assists on the squad with four, while her 29 shots finished in a knot for second, just one behind Nora Vicsek for the club high.
"Tina came in here last spring and proved right away that she belonged on the midfield for us," Springthorpe said. "For the way we want to play, she fits perfecting into what we try to do. Tina is a possession-oriented player that has a high level of tactical awareness and technical skills. I'm glad she was recognized for her accomplishments this season, because she is definitely well deserving of them and is an important part of our program."
Kendall Powell burst onto the scene during her freshman campaign, pacing the Golden Eagles with four goals and 10 points. All four of the Cookeville native's scores were game-winners, highlighted by three during conference play to place Powell in a tie for second in the league.
"As only a freshman this year, I really think Kendall is right there with some of the better players in the conference," Springthorpe said. "She's been vital to us with her three game-winners in conference play. Kendall finds a way to create a lot of opportunities on the attack, which we desperately needed going into conference season. She has a great understanding of the game and brings a strong physical aspect that I think we've needed. We are happy for her and her accomplishments this year, and it's great to see a player from Cookeville earn this kind of recognition."
Equipped with a slew of conference honors, the second-seeded Golden Eagles are set to play No. 3 Eastern Kentucky in Friday's semifinals of the OVC Tournament. First kick from Murray State's Cutchin Field is scheduled for 11 a.m. CT.
Photo courtesy of OVC