By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech soccer team's run in the OVC Tournament is set to continue Sunday afternoon, as the fifth-seeded Golden Eagles will hook up with No. 4 Murray State in a quarterfinal battle in Murray, Ky. First kick from Cutchin Field is slated for 1 p.m. CT.
The winner will advance to a semifinal date with top-seeded UT Martin on Friday, Nov. 5. The losing squad will see its 2021 campaign come to a close. The match will be broadcast live on ESPN+. Click here to watch.
A look at No. 5 Tennessee Tech
The Golden Eagles (5-5-4, 3-2-3 OVC) march into the quarterfinals fresh off a 1-0 first-round nod over Eastern Illinois Friday afternoon for Tech's first OVC Tournament victory since a 3-0 win over Belmont in the first round of the 2016 tourney. Gabby Garcia split the pipes early in the second half to break the scoreless deadlock with her second goal of the season. Garcia's net-finder came courtesy of a Yao Giada Zhou cross for the San Michele al Tagliamento, Italy native's first assist of the season.
Tech's stingy defense yielded only five total shots, just two of which were on-goal. Isabelle Austin's two stops led the 5-foot-8 senior to her second-consecutive clean sheet as well as her fifth shutout of the year and 11th of her TTU career.
The victory also pushed the purple and gold's undefeated streak to seven straight, surpassing the 2002 Golden Eagle club for sole possession of the second-longest unblemished stretch in school history. TTU has a 4-0-3 mark during the scorching streak.
Chloe Smith leads Tech with three goals, four assists and 10 points. The Cincinnati, Ohio product concluded the regular season red-hot behind three goals and three assists over her last six matches. Smith's 36 total shots are good enough for third most in the OVC.
A Golden Eagle victory on Halloween would secure a spot in the OVC Tournament semifinals for the first time since the 2017 season, a year that capped of a stretch of three straight appearances in the semis.
A look at No. 4 Murray State
A perennial powerhouse in the league behind three OVC Tournament titles and four regular-season crowns over the last six seasons, this year's version of the Racers (9-7-1, 4-3-1 OVC) earned a first-round bye and hosting responsibilities in the quarterfinals with a strong finish to the regular season thanks to a 3-1-1 record over the club's last five contests. In fact, Murray State leap frogged Tech for the No. 4 seed on the final day of the regular season by virtue of a 1-0 overtime victory over Austin Peay coupled with a Golden Eagle scoreless draw at SEMO.
One of the conference's top offenses, the Racers are second in the OVC with 30 goals and second in the league with 218 shots in 17 affairs. Chloe Barnthouse, who scored the winner in the club's OT victory over Austin Peay, leads the team with six scores in 2021, a mark that places the 5-foot-5 sophomore sixth in the OVC in goals. Rebecca Kubin, who has 29 career scores in five seasons as a Racer, is the conference leader with 42 total shots this year.
Jenna Villacres has appeared in all 17 matches in between the pipes and has allowed 26 goals to go along with 66 saves for a .717 save percentage and a 1.50 goals against average.
Murray State is 7-1-0 on its home pitch with the only loss occurring out of conference thanks to a 2-1 double overtime setback to Cincinnati on Sept. 26.
Inside the series
Friday's playoff affair will be the 25th meeting in the all-time series with Murray State holding a 13-8-3 advantage in the set. The two teams recently played to a 2-2 draw in the regular-season meeting on Oct. 21 in Cookeville. The seesaw sort of affair featured TTU goals from Chloe Smith and Meredith Nye, while the Racers saw Rebecca Kubin and Gracey Pack each find the back of the net.
Photo courtesy of Dave Winder, Murray State Athletics