By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Behind three goals, a career-high nine saves by Isabelle Austin and an overall stout defensive effort by the purple and gold, the Tennessee Tech soccer team accomplished a feat seen just four times over the last four years combined.
A Murray State loss in OVC play.
The Golden Eagles knocked the Racers off the ranks of the unbeaten, handing Murray State its first OVC loss of the season with a 3-0 victory Friday night at Tech Soccer Field. The Racers (8-6-0, 5-1-0 OVC) entered the evening with a robust 37-3-5 mark in conference competition since the start of the 2015 campaign, but after tying a season-high in goals and carding the club's second clean sheet of the season, the Golden Eagles exited the pitch with a victory in their back pocket.
The win pushes Tech into sole possession of third place in the OVC with four matches remaining in the regular season.
"That's definitely a huge win for us," TTU head coach Steve Springthorpe claimed. "Heading into tonight we knew that there were only two home games left and we knew how much we needed points, so to get a victory like this is without a doubt important for us.
"Murray is an awesome team," Springthorpe continued. "They are always strong in all areas and I like the style in which they play. At times tonight we were fortunate, but at the same time we deserved this evening's outcome. We played really hard and inspired. It was a great showing and a big win for TTU soccer tonight."
The Racers came into the night outscoring their opponents 19-3 in OVC play, and the squad's 38 goals this year was good enough for seventh in the nation, but Tech (5-5-4, 3-1-2 OVC) controlled the contest early with two goals in the tilt's first 15 minutes and change. Rachel Blow got the Golden Eagles off and running with a score in the eighth minute on a missile from deep that was perfectly placed inside the far post for the senior's first goal of 2019 and second of her career.
Minutes later, Tech was at it again, with Blow hovering right around the action on TTU's second score early into the 16th minute. This time the Boca Raton, Fla. native played the role of catalyst, setting up teammate Kendall Powell on a free kick that soared into the box. Blow's chance deflected off Murray State keeper Jasmine Rosell, before Powell took charge with a header that split the pipes to give the Golden Eagles a 2-0 advantage.
Blow was credited with her second assist of the season, while Powell poured the first of her two goals on the night to give the 5-foot-7 junior four scores this year.
"Anytime you can score early it puts a lot of pressure on the other team," Springthorpe noted. "We have actually done that in some of the past games where we jumped ahead first but weren't able to hold the lead at times. Tonight we were able to do that, which was great to see. I thought we came out and we were ready to play. We took advantage of a couple of things early and scored two nice goals, and then from there you look to just hang in there and find a way to get the result."
"Hang in there" they did, surviving a relentless Racer attack that featured a slew of second-half shots with 14 total attempts, eight of which were on-goal. Isabelle Austin made stop after stop after stop en route to a career-best nine saves as well as her second career shutout and first in OVC play. The Sylvania, Ohio product secured eight halts in the second half alone.
"Our defense held tonight and Izzie played great," Springthorpe said. "We held them to a lot of shots further out, which is what you are kind of looking to do when you play a team like Murray. I was happy that we found a way to get a shutout, especially against a team with their offensive capabilities. Murray has a very dangerous attack where they are able to get behind players, however tonight they didn't really do that, outside of a time or two. A lot of credit to our defense and a lot of credit to our entire team. I thought our midfield was very good tonight, and again, just another great, great win for our program."
Leading 2-0 after fending off a series of second-half chances by the Racers, Tech put the finishing touches on the club's impressive showing with their third score of the evening. Kendall Powell recorded her first multi-goal effort of the season with a second strike in the 84th minute that extended the TTU edge to 3-0.
The Cookeville native took advantage of a transition opportunity that saw Powell bury one over the leaping try of Racer keeper Jamie Skarupsky and into the back of the net. Tina Marolt earned an assist on the play after helping feed Powell with a pass to the junior forward's shoe tops.
MSU used a tandem of keepers with Jasmine Rosell allowing two goals and making one save in the first half, before turning things over to Skarupsky, who surrendered one goal and secured one stop in the second.
Tech's three goals matched a season-high that was first set in a 3-1 home victory over Eastern Kentucky on Sept. 22.
Powell paced the Golden Eagles with three shots, while Miyah Watford was the Racer leader with five tries.
With back-to-back wins under their belt, the Golden Eagles will tie a ribbon on the weekend with a Sunday meeting at Jacksonville State. First kick with the Gamecocks is scheduled for 1 p.m. CT.
Photo by Thomas Corhern