By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information
BRENTWOOD, Tenn. – A bundle of purple and gold appeared prominently on this year's Ohio Valley Conference awards list, as the Tennessee Tech soccer team took home a series of all-league accolades, announced by the conference Thursday morning.
A quartet of Golden Eagles were honored, with Chloe Smith headlining the prestigious list behind an All-OVC first-team award. Selma Askildsen and Meredith Nye were both recognized on the All-OVC second team for the second-consecutive year, while Emily Paryne secured a spot on the All-OVC Newcomer to round out TTU's impressive postseason showing.
Smith's first-team distinction makes it a seventh-straight season in which a Golden Eagle has been recognized on the All-OVC first team. Tech's quartet on this year's list marks the first time in which four different Golden Eagles have been awarded in the same season since 2017, a year that featured All-OVC first-team achievements for Lauren Brewer and Kari Naerdemann, as well as OVC All-Newcomer honors for Tina Marolt and Kendall Powell.
"It's great for those individuals and fantastic for our program to get that sort of recognition," TTU head coach Steve Springthorpe said. "Those four players have all done some outstanding things this year and have been major contributors to our overall success. As always, anytime you have any individuals receive this sort of recognition, it is a reflection of your team as a whole. It takes a lot of different people to play a role in helping those four receive those types of accolades. I'm happy and excited for the four of them and am certainly excited that we are still playing in the OVC Tournament and that those players get to continue to showcase their skills during this playoff run."
Chloe Smith's All-OVC first-team award is the second postseason honor of her Tech tenure after securing a position on the OVC All-Newcomer squad as a freshman in 2018. The Cincinnati, Ohio native is the Golden Eagle leader in virtually every major offensive category, setting the Tech bar with four goals, four assists, 12 points and 38 shots. Smith's four scores are tied for seventh-most in the OVC, while her four assists place her in a knot for sixth in the league and her 12 points are good enough to put the 5-foot-8 junior in a tie for fifth in the conference.
In OVC only matches, Smith's 27 shots in eight tilts were the most in the league. The Golden Eagle forward surged toward the end of the regular season behind a combined three goals and three assists over the final six matches before the start of the OVC Tournament. Smith tallied six shots in a tilt on two separate occasions (Oct. 12 vs. Belmont & Oct. 21 vs. Murray State), which was tied for the most attempts by an OVC player in any contest throughout the year.
"Of course, these awards are just based on your play during the regular season, which Chloe put together a fantastic year, but what is also great about her is that she has also shown her ability to come up big during the postseason as well in helping us get to where we are right now as a team," Springthorpe noted. "Chloe has had a great overall year in so many ways. Just like the rest of our team, the beginning of the season presented some challenges for her, but since we got into October it feels like Chloe found her groove. It seemed to start in the game against EIU where she scored the game-winning penalty kick goal in double overtime and from that point on she has shown a lot of confidence and deserves to be a first-teamer. I'm glad Chloe is being recognized for what she accomplished this season."
Selma Askildsen's second-consecutive All-OVC second-team honor comes courtesy of a campaign that has seen the Oslo, Norway native not leave the pitch at any point this season for the purple and gold. Askildsen joins Macy Carter as the only two Golden Eagle field players that have appeared in all 1,476 minutes this season, and as one of Tech's defensive anchors, the 5-foot-8 freshman has played a pivotal role in leading the Golden Eagles to five shutouts this year, tied for fourth-most in the league.
Askilden's defensive prowess has also contributed to Tech's 1.16 goals against average, the third lowest in the OVC. For her efforts in helping guide the Golden Eagles to back-to-back double overtime victories against UT Martin on Oct. 7 and Eastern Illinois on Oct. 10, Askildsen was named the conference's Defensive Player of the Week for the second time in her career on Oct. 12.
"I'm happy for Selma, who is now a two-time OVC award recipient and deservedly so," Springthorpe said. "She is a tremendous defender, who plays a massive role on our team. A lot of times people will look at statistics in terms of goals scored or getting assists, but Selma is a center back and isn't going to really have any of those kinds of numbers, so for her to get recognized two straight years really speaks to how great of a defender she is. Selma is certainly one of the best defenders in our conference and I am happy that the league understands that and recognized her in this fashion."
Despite playing in only half of TTU's eight conference clashes due to injury, Meredith Nye's strong play netted the Jackson, Tenn. product with her second-straight All-OVC second-team piece of hardware as well. After playing in the first two league affairs against SIUE and Morehead State, Nye was absent over the next four matches before returning to the pitch on Oct. 21 against Murray State.
Nye came back in a big way in her return against the Racers, providing the equalizing score in the 56th minute to erase a 2-1 deficit in an eventual 2-2 draw with Murray State. Nye's net-finder was one of three scored this year for the 5-foot-6 midfielder, who also found the back of the net in the conference opener against SIUE on Sept. 26 as well as the game-winning penalty kick goal in the 89th minute of the OVC Tournament quarterfinals against Murray State on Oct. 31.
"You look at Meredith's season and she only played in half of the conference games due to an injury, so for her to get this sort of recognition shows that the league understands how good of a player Meredith really is," Springthorpe claimed. "She helps our program in so many ways, and in that short period of time that she was out there during conference play, Meredith certainly made an impact. I also think that coming off a great spring season may have stuck in people's minds around the league and coaches in the conference recognize how significant she is for us. It was great for her to earn second-team honors. It's a testament to Meredith's work ethic and ability to come up big during the games she played in."
Nye and Askildsen are the first Golden Eagles to take home All-OVC second-team awards in back-to-back seasons since Karigan Owens collected three consecutive second-team accolades from 2015-17.
Emily Payne continued a Tech run of at least one Golden Eagle on the All-OVC Newcomer team in six of last seven seasons after serving as a valuable member on Tech's midfield throughout the course of her rookie campaign. After coming off the bench in Tech's four affairs, the Stockholm, Sweden native has started in each of the last 10 tilts, beginning with the non-conference finale at ETSU on Sept. 17.
Payne's role became more prominent as the year progressed, playing in at least 75 minutes in each of the last six regular-season contests. The Golden Eagles went 3-0-3 in those six matches.
"Emily has played a lot of minutes for us and the quality that she brings to our team as we try to play through the midfield and be creative through the midfield stands out in a big way," Springthorpe said. "Emily is a possession-oriented player that understands the game and has brought some tremendous play to our team. She isn't a goal scorer per say, and similar to Selma, isn't going to put up a lot of statistics, but her value to our success this year can't be underestimated. If you look at a lot of the midfielders that were award winners in our conference, many of them are goal scorers who put up big numbers, but Emily is equally as important in terms of helping our team win games. She has had a great freshman year and I am glad she honored for her strong play."
Smith, Askildsen, Nye, Payne and the rest of the purple and gold will continue their pursuit of the program's second OVC Tournament title in Friday's semifinal at top-seeded UT Martin. First kick from Skyhawk Soccer Field in Martin, Tenn. is set for 4 p.m. CT.
The Golden Eagles are in the semifinals for the fourth time in the last seven seasons after back-to-back wins over No. 8 Eastern Illinois and No. 4 Murray State in Tech's first two tangles of the OVC Tournament. The two victories mark the third time in school history in which the Golden Eagle have won two playoff matches in a single season. The 2000 and 2009 Tech teams also won a pair of affairs in the OVC Tournament.