By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information
MARTIN, Tenn. – Gabby Garcia put the finishing touches on a thrilling come from behind, double overtime victory for the Tennessee Tech soccer team, as the Golden Eagle returning freshman forward split the pipes in the 109th minute to propel the purple and gold to a 2-1 win Thursday night at UT Martin.
Trailing 1-0 over 70 minutes into the conference clash, Tech first knotted the action on a Bailey Taylor goal in the 71st minute, before Garcia's heroics pushed the Golden Eagles to the finish line less than two minutes before the tilt would have concluded in a draw. Tech's nod is the club's first in OVC play, while the comeback also moved UTM into the loss column for the first time in conference action. The Skyhawks were a perfect 3-0 in league play prior to Thursday, outscoring their opponents 9-2 in the process.
"It was a great effort on our team's part and I am proud of our entire group tonight," TTU head coach Steve Springthorpe said. "Up and down, everyone contributed tonight. From those that were out there all game to those that came off the bench and played a role, and then even our players that didn't get in there tonight, but gave great energy from the sidelines. We are excited to get a win on the road against a good UT Martin team for our first conference win of the year. Feels like we have been close and have had some bad breaks here and there in some tight games, but tonight we found a way to get it done and I'm happy for our team."
Garcia's goal is the first for the Elizabethtown, Ky. product this season and third of her career. The score is the second game-winning goal of her Tech tenure, with the other also coming in overtime to put a lid on a dramatic 1-0 nod over Eastern Illinois on Mar. 12, 2021 in TTU's spring season home opener.
Chloe Smith helped make it all possible with a serve played near the end line that had UTM challenge the ball toward Garcia, but after it eluded the Skyhawks' bid, Garcia was able to put it in between the pipes for the winner. Smith notched her second assist of the season on the score.
"As far as the game-winning goal is concerned, it really was a great build up off a great transition from our team," Springthorpe said. "We transitioned out and everyone involved did their part from Bailey first finding Chloe and then Chloe's great serve to connect with Gabby, who took care of the rest."
The Golden Eagles (2-5-1, 1-2-0 OVC) squared the score late in the second stanza behind a Bailey Taylor goal in the 71st minute, the Powell, Tenn. product's team-leading second net-finder of the season and eighth of her career. Taylor capitalized off a possession by Taylor Hornback that saw the 5-foot-8 forward battle between three Skyhawks on her way to a serve across the end line that connected with Taylor for the tap in. Hornback's efforts earned the Stillwater, Minn. native her second career assist.
Tech's game-tying score came on the heels of a UT Martin goal in the 52nd minute that broke the nil-nil deadlock. Jill Hilldreth did the honors for her squad-leading sixth goal of the year.
UT Martin (7-4-1, 3-1-0 OVC) narrowly led the shot battle, 17-15, but the Golden Eagles held a 9-7 edge in the shots on-goal department, which included seven attempts on-frame after intermission. Tech's 17 total attempts and nine on-goal were both the most in a match this season.
Taylor led the purple and gold with four total bids, highlighted by a team-best three on-point. Garcia and Hornback each produced three tries and two on-goal. Izzy Patterson and Makayla Robinson led the Skyhawk charge with three attempts each.
Isabelle Austin notched six saves in the victory, which included a stop a minute before Garcia's winner. Erica Myers collected six halts across the way.
"You know, the pressure was on us tonight, no way around it," Springthorpe noted. "We talked about it before the game and even during it. We had put ourselves in a position where we were behind it and with only six conference games remaining, we were at a point where we needed to make something happen. I'm proud of our team and their fight. We withstood the pressure of giving up that first goal in the second half and found a way to battle back. I thought we had our fair share of opportunities throughout the second half and in both overtimes. Ultimately, I felt we played our style and did enough things tonight to come out with a win."
The Golden Eagles will return to Cookeville to square off with Eastern Illinois on Sunday, Oct. 10 in the final Sunday home affair of the regular season. The contest will serve as Tech's annual Senior Day with a pre-match ceremony honoring TTU's senior class scheduled just prior to first kick. The tilt is set to begin at 1 p.m. CT and admission is free of charge.
Photo by Thomas Corhern