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OVC announces predicted order of finish, Austin chosen as Tech’s Player to Watch

OVC announces predicted order of finish, Austin chosen as Tech’s Player to Watch

By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – As the official start of the 2021 fall campaign draws closer and closer, the Ohio Valley Conference released its predicted order of finish Tuesday morning as well as the league's Player to Watch list.

After a vote from the conference's head coaches and sports information personnel, the Golden Eagles were chosen to finish in a tie for fifth in the 9-team league, while the OVC's reigning Goalkeeper of the Year, Isabelle Austin, was selected as Tech's Player to Watch.

"Anytime you look at a preseason poll, you recognize their importance to a certain degree, but at the end of the day, you have to take a fair amount of stock in that they are largely based on last year's results," TTU head coach Steve Springthorpe said. "Last season presented a different set of circumstances with us playing a shortened spring campaign, but after finishing where we did, our spot on this fall's preseason poll makes sense. It's never a bad thing to get a pulse of what the conference thinks about your team, but once the season begins, your focus is all about the play on the field."

The Golden Eagles wrapped up the 2020-21 spring season with a 4-5-1 record, playing all 10 affairs against members of the OVC. Tech paced the conference in goals allowed with just seven scores surrendered in 10 matches.

As far as Austin is concerned, the Sylvania, Ohio native is coming off a banner spring season that saw her claim the league's inaugural Goalkeeper of the Year award as well as a spot on the All-OVC first team. Austin's conference-best .891 save percentage set both an OVC and TTU single-season record, while the 5-foot-8 senior's league-leading 0.67 goals against average represented the third-lowest mark in school history.

"Having Izzy selected as our Player to Watch makes a ton of sense when you consider the kind of spring season she just put up," Springthorpe noted. "Being named the OVC's Goalkeeper of the Year as well as an All-OVC first-teamer speaks for itself. As I've said before about her, not only does she bring a tremendous skill set to the position, but Izzie's overall leadership and ability to keep our back line and defense organized routinely stands out. I know her importance to our team and I am excited to see what she can accomplish this year in helping our club win games."

Austin and the rest of the Golden Eagles will host Middle Tennessee Thursday night at 6 p.m. CT in a final exhibition tune-up, before Tech heads to Vanderbilt on Aug. 19 for the first regular-season match of the fall. The Golden Eagles first home affair is set for Aug. 22 against Liberty at 1 p.m. CT. Admission to Tech Soccer Field is free of charge.



(As selected by the OVC Women's Head Soccer Coaches and Communications Directors)          

1. SIUE (12 first-place votes) - 121

2. Murray State (Four first-place votes) - 116

3. Southeast Missouri (Two first-place votes) - 99

4. UT Martin  - 89

t5. Belmont - 66

t5. Tennessee Tech - 66

7. Austin Peay - 43

8. Eastern Illinois - 28

9. Morehead State - 20     


Players to Watch

Tori Case, MF, So.- Austin Peay

Case was named to the 2020-21 OVC All-Newcomer team after starting all 10 games last season. She led the team with three assist and ranked third on the team with three assists and five points. Her 0.30 assists per game ranks as the fifth-best single-season in Austin Peay history.


Rachel Vernon, D, Sr.- Belmont

Vernon started in all 11 matches and recorded over 900 minutes in the 2020-21 season. She has been named to the All-OVC second team last last season and also earned United Soccer Coaches All-South Region second team honors.


Kenzie Balcerek, MF, So. - Eastern Illinois

Balcerek started all 10 matches last season playing all but six minutes on the pitch during the season. She finished with one assist on a match-winning goal in overtime. As a freshman in 2019, Balcerak started the first 11 matches of the season before missing the final portion of the year to do injury. She had one assist in 2019.


Michelle Jerantowski, GK, Jr.- Morehead State

Jerantowski posted a team-best 1.15 goals-against average in eight matches during the spring 2021 season. She led the team with 706 minutes played and posted one shutout. She heads into the fall as the stating goalkeeper.


Izzy Heckman, MF, Gr. - Murray State

Heckman started all 11 games last season and was name the OVC Defender of the Year. She was also named to the All-OVC First Team. Heckman had two assists, 13 shots and eight shots on goal last year.


Lauren Welker, MF, Sr.. - Southeast Missouri

Welker led the Redhawks with six goals and four assists for 16 points last season. She also registered a team-best 18 shots including 12 on goal and tallied a pair of game winning scores. She was named to the 2020-21 All-OVC First Team.


Lily Schnieders, F - SIUE

Schnieders is the only player to rank in the OVC top five in shots, points, goals and assists. She was named to the 2020-21 All-OVC Second team and was named to the United Soccer Coaches Second Team All-South Region last year.


Isabelle Austin, GK, Sr.- Tennessee Tech

Austin was named the 2020-21 OVC Goalkeeper of the Year after giving up just seven goals last season. She led the league in goals against average (0.67) and save percentage (.891). Austin was tied for tops in the league with 57 saves.


Emely van der Vliet, F, So. - UT Martin

van der Vliet was named the OVC Freshman of the year last season. She started all 11 games for the Skyhawks last year, recording seven goals and one assist. She tallied her first career hat trick against Eastern Kentucky.

Photo by Jim Dillon

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