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Golden Eagles to meet Eastern Illinois in Friday’s first round of the OVC Tournament

Golden Eagles to meet Eastern Illinois in Friday’s first round of the OVC Tournament

By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The postseason has arrived for the Tennessee Tech soccer team, as the Golden Eagles are set to embark on their playoff run with a first-round OVC Tournament battle against Eastern Illinois on Friday. First kick from Cutchin Field in Murray, Ky. is slated for 2 p.m. CT.

Tech enters the single-elimination OVC tourney as the No. 5 seed, while EIU is the No. 8 seed. Friday's winner will clash with fourth-seeded Murray State in Sunday's quarterfinal. Friday's affair will be broadcast live on ESPN+. Click here to watch. Live stats are also available. Click here to view.

A look at Tennessee Tech

No. 5 TTU (4-5-4, 3-2-3 OVC) will be making its 12th all-time trip to the OVC Tournament and fifth in the last seven years. The Golden Eagles advanced to the semifinals in three straight years from 2015-17 and last made the championship match in 2009. Tech's only tourney title came back in 2000.

The Golden Eagles narrowly missed out on a first-round bye and hosting responsibilities after Tech played SEMO to a scoreless draw in Sunday's regular-season finale, while Murray State defeated Austin Peay 1-0 in overtime on the same day to surpass TTU in the standings on the way to the No. 4 seed. Tech's scoreless knot did extend its unbeaten streak to six consecutive, matching the 2002 Golden Eagle squad for the second-lonest unblemished stretch in program history. The deadlock was also the ninth overtime tilt that TTU has appeared in this season to extend an already program record.

Isabelle Austin picked up three saves in the contest for her fourth clean sheet of the season and 10th blanking of her Tech career. Coupled with a season-best eight stops in a 2-2 draw against Murray State in Tech's previous contest on Oct. 21, the Sylvania, Ohio native had enough on her resume to be honored as the OVC's co-Goalkeeper of the Week, her second weekly accolade of the season and fourth of her TTU tenure.

Offensively, Chloe Smith tied a ribbon on the regular season with a scorching finish that featured three goals and three assists over her last six matches. The 5-foot-8 junior paced the purple and gold in every major offensive category thanks to three scores, four assists, 10 points and 34 shots. Smith's 34 total attempts were good enough for third-most in the OVC, while her 27 tries during conference action topped the league.

Meredith Nye and Bailey Taylor represented the other two Golden Eagles with more than one goal during the year behind two scores apiece.

A look at Eastern Illinois

No. 8 EIU (4-10-2, 2-5-1 OVC) will be appearing in the OVC Tournament for the 17th time in program history. The Panthers have won five tourney championships, which includes a run of four straight from 2001-04. The club's other crown occurred back in the 1999 campaign.

EIU closed out the regular season with a 1-4 mark over its last five matches, which saw the Panthers score just one time throughout the stretch. Overall, the squad's 10 goals in 16 matches were tied for the fewest in the league.

Zenaya Barnes sits atop the Panther leaderboard with three goals and seven points, while Michaela Danyo is the team leader with three assists and Nicoletta Anuci has the most shots on the squad behind 17 total attempts. Faith Davies has appeared in each and every minute between the pipes this season and is the OVC leader with 89 saves, 17 more stops than the next closest keeper in the league. The 6-foot red-shirt junior possesses a 1.81 goals against average and a .748 save percentage.

Inside the series

EIU holds a 19-6-7 lead in the all-time series, but the Golden Eagles have captured each of the last two get-togethers. TTU claimed the regular-season meeting with a 1-0 double overtime nod on Oct. 10 in Cookeville. Chloe Smith scored the winner, splitting the pipes on a penalty kick in the 105th minute.

The two teams will be locking up for the sixth time in the OVC Tournament. EIU holds a 3-2 advantage in the postseason affairs, which includes a 2-0 win on Nov. 1, 2019, the last time the two clubs were in the OVC Tournament.

Photo by Jim Dillon

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