By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – A hard-fought, scoreless war for more than 96 minutes between regulation and a first overtime session went in favor of the home team Thursday evening, as No. 18 nationally-ranked Vanderbilt (1-0-0) found the back of the net in extra time to defeat the Tennessee Tech soccer team (0-0-1) 1-0 in the season opener for both squads.
The Commodores' Abi Brighton ended the nil-nil tie in the 97th minute of the night, with a goal in the upper left corner of the net off a helper from Sophia Gorski.
"Obviously, Vanderbilt is a great team," Tech head coach Steve Springthorpe said. "Playing the reigning SEC [Southeastern Conference] champs at their place on opening night, I was really pleased with our team's response to that environment. They came out on the field and played hard with passion and desire. They played for our University and the gold jersey we wore tonight."
The Golden Eagle defense was particularly stingy all night, turning away a robust Vanderbilt attack repeatedly that saw the home squad rack up 21 shots with 11 on goal. The purple and gold were once again led in net by reigning Ohio Valley Conference Goalkeeper of the Year Isabelle Austin, who looked just as strong as ever on Thursday.
The returning senior racked up nine saves in Nashville, including five stops in the first half and four more in the second stanza. The Tech defense also turned away a shot-on-goal from the Commodores as a team. Defenders Sarah Block, Macy Carter, and Selma Askildsen all played their fair share in the strong defensive showing, playing all 97 minutes of the contest.
"Izzy was great," Springthorpe expressed. "She kept us in it with a couple of 1-on-1 saves, her distribution was very good, and she provided great leadership in the back. She had a great night, as did many players individually. They played well with the challenge in front of them. It was just an overall team effort to be in the position we were in. There is a lot of excitement for the future if we can stay healthy and put a couple of things together."
Emily Carlevato put Tech's first shot-on-goal of the season in the 17th minute, with Vanderbilt's netminder Kate Devine making the stop. Devine also stopped the second Golden Eagle try on target, this one from Taylor Hornback in the 40th minute.
"It was an entire team effort to get through regulation and to the point of an overtime period," Springthorpe explained. "That's a great team and I want to congratulate them for winning. I'm, proud of our effort, but as much as we played hard and have to be proud of, we never want to be excited about a loss. We need to move forward starting tomorrow and get ready for our home opener against Liberty on Sunday."
The purple and gold will return to Cookeville and the comfort of Tech Soccer Field for its home opener on Sunday, Aug. 22 against Liberty. First kick is set for a 1:00 p.m. CT start.
File photo by Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information