By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information
MARTIN, Tenn. – Another dramatic finish with the season hanging in the balance took center stage for the Tennessee Tech soccer team, but the fifth-seeded Golden Eagles fell victim to a late UT Martin goal in a 1-0 loss to the top-seeded Skyhawks in the semifinals of the OVC Tournament.
Emely van der Vliet sent one soaring in the 84th minute from outside the box that just crept inside the upper left corner of the net to break the scoreless deadlock and ultimately send UT Martin (11-5-1) into Sunday's OVC Tournament championship match. The Skyhawks will host No. 2 SIUE in the final after the Cougars posted a 3-0 win over No. 7 SEMO in the other semifinal bout.
Tech's loss is the club's first defeat since Sept. 30 at Morehead State, snapping an eight-match unbeaten streak, the second-longest in program history. The Golden Eagles conclude the year with a 6-6-4 overall record.
Minutes before the deciding score, TTU produced a pair of shots on-point, including a try by Chloe Smith in the 82nd minute that nearly snuck through the pipes. Yao Giada Zhou put together a cross from the outskirts of the box on the left side that bounced to Smith, but the ensuing attempt by the All-OVC first-teamer was knocked away by Erica Myers to keep the match preserved at 0-0.
Less than a minute later, the Golden Eagles attempted another shot on-frame, but a Bailey Taylor try from a few yards outside of the box was gobbled up by Myers. Taylor, Smith and Giada Zhou all led the purple and gold with two shots apiece. Taylor's two tries on-goal were the most for TTU.
UT Martin led the shot battle, 14-10, but managed to lead 9-4 in the shots on-goal department. van der Vliet led all players in the contest with three total attempts.
Playing in her final match as a Golden Eagle, Isabelle Austin tallied eight saves, the second-most in a tilt this year. The former OVC Goalkeeper of the Year wraps up her Tech tenure with the fourth-best goals against average (1.22) and the fifth-highest save percentage (.792) for a career in school history.
Myers tabbed four stops across the way for the clean sheet.
The Golden Eagles conclude their 2021 campaign with the program's fourth OVC Tournament semifinals appearance in the last seven seasons. Tech claimed two wins in the tourney with a 1-0 nod over No. 8 Eastern Illinois and a 2-1 victory over No. 4 Murray State for the program's third season ever with two postseason wins in a single campaign.
Photo by Jim Dillon