By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information
BRENTWOOD, Tenn. – A significant shade of purple and gold made its way onto the Ohio Valley Conference's postseason awards list, as the Tennessee Tech soccer team placed a league-tying best three members on the All-OVC first team.
Tina Marolt, Kendall Powell and Kaitie Shipley all secured spots on the conference's top tier, knotting Murray State for the most across the league. Tech's three All-OVC first-teamers marks only the fifth time in program history the Golden Eagles have received three first-team accolades in the same season and just the second occurrence for the club since 2002. Lauren Brewer, Abi Gearing and Kari Naerdemann all achieved the distinction in 2016.
The three honors also makes it five straight seasons TTU has received a first-team award, extending the second-longest streak in program history. The Golden Eagles had a run of six consecutive campaigns of at least one first-teamer from 1998-2003.
"It's awesome for those three players," TTU head coach Steve Springthorpe said. "They all had great years and helped our program rebound a bit after missing the conference tournament last season. All three are very deserving of these honors, especially with the way they all played during the conference season. It's great that the coaches and sports information personnel across the league took note of the way they all performed and recognized them for those accomplishments. Knowing the three of these players and their intense competitiveness, I'm sure they all would've traded these honors for the chance to continue playing for an OVC championship, but they should be proud of earning this kind of distinction."
Kaitie Shipley caps off a stellar Tech career with her second consecutive appearance on the All-OVC first team after taking home a spot on the exclusive list last season. The Barrie, Ontario native did not leave the pitch for the second straight year, playing in all 1,817 minutes on TTU's back line for a defensive unit that finished top five in the conference in goals allowed and goals against average during league play.
Shipley showcased her offensive prowess as well during her swan song campaign with a career-best two goals in 2019, highlighted by a game-tying score in the 83rd minute of an eventual 2-1 win over Austin Peay on Oct. 6 that started a season-high four-match unbeaten streak for the Golden Eagles.
"It's really just amazing what Kaitie has been able to do since she came to our program," Springthorpe said. "She started as an attacking player as a freshman and then went through some injuries before ultimately changing her position later in her career. Not only did Kaitie have to learn everything that goes into a position change, but to do so at a level of a two-time All-OVC first-teamer is pretty unbelievable. You just don't see that happen very often. It's great to see her get this kind of recognition because Kaitie is the type of player that you want to be at the forefront of a program. From a leadership side, from a soccer-playing side, from an academic perspective and working within the community, she's an all-around student athlete and it's great to see her get recognized for the athletic part again this year."
Senior Tina Marolt tied a ribbon on a strong run in purple and gold with her second postseason accolade throughout her Tech tenure. The Smatevz, Slovenia product secured a spot on the All-OVC newcomer team following an impressive first year with the Golden Eagles in 2017 after transferring from Louisville.
A season-ending injury kept Marolt sidelined for all but five matches in 2018, but the 5-foot-2 midfielder came back for one final go at it in 2019 and was a force to be reckoned with throughout the entire campaign. Marolt's team-leading six assists during the regular season were good enough for third most in the league. The dynamic senior helped pace Tech to one of its most important wins of the year with a two-assist showing as part of 3-0 nod against Murray State on Oct. 11 that handed the Racers their first OVC loss of the year, and at the time, only fourth conference defeat in the last four seasons.
Marolt ended the regular season with a season-high three-point effort at first-place Southeast Missouri that included her first goal of the year with a score in the 85th minute. The senior midfielder ends her time as a Golden Eagle tied for sixth on the program's career assist list with 11 in just over two seasons in purple and gold.
"Tina came in here a few years ago and showed her immediate potential with a spot on the OVC All-Newcomer team," Springthorpe remarked. "A lot of people around the conference recognized her as a player that could be a big part of our success going forward, but unfortunately last year she tore her ACL early and ended up having to redshirt. Tina decided to come back to our team this year and we are definitely fortunate that she made that decision. For her to come back from an injury like that and be one of the leaders in assists in the OVC is an awesome accomplishment. Tina's leadership as one our captains, and of course, her play on the field will be missed. She's been a vital part of our success since joining the program."
Kendall Powell wrapped up her junior campaign with another successful offensive showing that saw the Cookeville native finish tied for fourth in the OVC with seven goals in the regular season, highlighted by six scores during conference action, tied for second most in the league.
Powell surged toward the end of the regular season behind a combined five goals in Tech's last five matches before the OVC Tournament. The strong run began with a two-goal effort in TTU's 3-0 win over then undefeated Murray State on Oct. 11, before Powell picked up another score in a 1-0 win in Tech's next match at Jacksonville State on Oct. 13. The game-winning goal against the Gamecocks was the eighth of her career to move into second-place on the program's all-time game-winning goals list.
Powell's 18 goals in three seasons is already tied for third most in program history. She will enter her senior season six scores back of Angela Freund (1998-01) for second most on the career list.
"We've always thought of Kendall as a great player, but coming into this season it just seemed like she added a bit more motivation to be a leader for our team and carry us offensively when we needed her," Springthorpe said. "Unfortunately she suffered an injury early in the year and was never really 100% during the non-conference season. Then you get into OVC play and she showed us all the type of player she's capable of being, even with having to battle the injury issues she did. Playing hurt and still finding goals as often as she did is pretty amazing on her part. There was a stretch of huge conference games where Kendall just seemed like she was scoring at will and I think the rest of the conference took note of that. I'm glad she was recognized for the kind of season she had and we look forward to her going into her senior season and potentially putting together a similar kind of year."
Photo by Thomas Corhern