By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – On the pitch, the Tennessee Tech soccer team is coming off a successful 2021 campaign which featured two postseason victories for the third time in program history, a spot in the OVC Tournament semifinals for the fourth time in seven years and an in-season eight-match unbeaten streak for the second-longest unblemished stretch in school history.
Off the pitch, the club's accomplishments have proven to be just as impressive after the Ohio Valley Conference announced that the Golden Eagles are the recipient of the 2021-22 Team Sportsmanship Award for soccer.
Voted on by the student-athletes and coaches of their respective sport, the honor is bestowed upon the OVC squad that is deemed to have best exhibited the standards of sportsmanship and ethical behavior as outlined by the conference and NCAA. Included in the areas for evaluation are the conduct of student-athletes, coaches, staff and administration and fans.
"First and foremost, I want to thank the coaches and student-athletes across the OVC for voting for our team to receive this prestigious award, it is truly an honor for our program," TTU head coach Steve Springthorpe said. "Our team strives to be the best that it can in all areas, whether it be in the academic arena, within the community or on the competition field, and in doing so we aim to play the game and compete in a way that is honorable to the sport and our university.
"I know that there are many teams in our conference that deserve this award and to be singled out in this fashion is an achievement that means a lot to us. I am thankful to have a group of student-athletes that can not only compete to the best of their potential, but can do so in a way that displays a high level of sportsmanship toward our opponents and others within the conference."
The 2021-22 school year marks the 17th year in which the OVC has handed out the Team Sportsmanship Award. This season's accolade is the second time the Golden Eagles have been recognized with the achievement. The 2009 TTU squad claimed the award as well.
"Congratulations to coach Springthorpe, coach [Corey] Boyd and the entire group of Tennessee Tech soccer student-athletes for winning this award," TTU Director of Athletics Mark Wilson said. "This is an honor that holds significant weight and is one that we want all of our programs to strive for. Year in and year out Golden Eagle soccer does things the right way, whether it be on the field, in the classroom or in the community and they are well deserving of this accolade. The coaching staff, student-athletes and support staff are a collection of high-character individuals and are a tremendous representation of our athletic department and university and I couldn't be prouder of them for this accomplishment."
The Team Sportsmanship awards were instituted in 2005 and stand as the OVC's newest addition to an awards program that recognizes and celebrates sportsmanship within the league. In 1998, the OVC established the Steve Hamilton Sportsmanship Award, presented annually to a male or female student-athlete of junior or senior status who best exemplifies the characteristics of the late Morehead State student-athlete, coach and administrator. Five years later, the conference added the OVC Sportsmanship Award, presented annually to the member institution selected by its peers to have best exhibited the standards of sportsmanship and ethical behavior as outlined by the OVC and the NCAA.
In 1995, the OVC implemented a first-of-its-kind "Sportsmanship Statement," a policy promoting principles of fair play, ethical conduct and respect for one's opponent. The statement answered the challenge of the NCAA Presidents Commission to improve sportsmanship in collegiate athletics and has become a model for others to follow across the nation.
Photo by Jim Dillon