By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – A thriller in every sense of the word went down Thursday night at Tech Soccer Field, as the Tennessee Tech soccer team played Murray State to a 2-2 draw in a back-and-forth sort of tilt in TTU's home regular-season finale.
The draw stretches Tech's undefeated stretch to five consecutive, the longest since TTU's program-record nine-match unblemished streak to close out the 2017 regular season. The Golden Eagles are now 3-0-2 since the calendar flipped to the month of October.
Thursday's 2-2 deadlock also featured a piece of school history behind Tech's now program-record eighth overtime match of the season, one more than the 2015, 2009 and 2006 version of the Golden Eagles that played seven OT contests during their respective campaigns.
Early goals to begin each half was the name of the game in the captivating contest, with all four scores occurring within the first 11 minutes of each stanza. Chloe Smith continued her recent surge by unwrapping the scoring less than four minutes into the affair thanks to an unassisted goal that saw the Cincinnati, Ohio product gather in a deflection in the box, before ripping one into the back of the net for her third goal of the season that put Tech (4-5-3, 3-2-2 OVC) ahead 1-0.
TTU's lead would prove to be short lived though, as 65 seconds later Rebecca Kubin provided the equalized with her third goal of the year. The Murray State 5-foot-3 forward took a feed from Hailey Cole and weaved through TTU's defense, before lining one up inside the box and drilling it home to start the match fresh at 1-1. Cole collected an assist on the game-tying score.
The two teams flipped the script in the second half in a period that saw the Racers (8-7-1, 3-3-1) strike first early in the frame. Just like Smith in the first, Murray's Gracey Park opened the scoring less than four minutes into the half with a top-shelf goal on a pass from Riley Johnson, who registered an assist on the play.
Not to be deterred, the Golden Eagles responded mere minutes later, courtesy of a Meredith Nye net-finder in the 56th minute for her second goal of the season and third of her career. The equalizing score came off a Chloe Smith corner that ended up with Nye powering one in between the pipes to knot the dramatic affair at 2-2. Smith's set-piece serve gave the 5-foot-8 junior her fourth assist of the year for a three-point evening.
Smith's big night continued a trend that has now featured three goals and three assists over her last five matches.
Deadlocked 2-2 in overtime, Isabelle Austin kept the match preserved with a clutch save in the waning moments of the final extra session. With just over a minute remaining, Rebecca Kubin found herself point blank with the Tech keeper, but Kubin's blast was halted on a reaction stop by Austin that allowed the contest to continue into a second overtime.
The Golden Eagles controlled the second overtime thanks to a 4-1 shot discrepancy, but neither side was unable to put one home. Overall, Tech notched a season-high 19 shots, which included eight on-goal for the second most in a match this year. Smith paced the purple and gold with a season-high tying six shots, tied for the most in a match by any OVC player this year.
The Racers took 19 shots as well and were led by Kubin's five attempts.
Austin picked up a season-best eight saves, seven of which occurred after intermission. Jenna Villacres collected three saves over the course of 110 minutes.
Tech's draw keeps the Golden Eagles in fourth place in the OVC, still holding a narrow one-point edge (11-10) over Murray State. The No. 3 and No. 4 seeds receive a first-round bye in the OVC Tournament as well as hosting responsibilities in the quarterfinals.
TTU will head to Southeast Missouri for the club's final match of the regular season on Sunday. A win assures the purple and gold the No. 4 seed and a first-round bye in the OVC Tournament. First kick with the Redhawks is set for 1 p.m. CT.
Photo by Jim Dillon