By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – As the calendar approaches the month of August, the start of another Tennessee Tech soccer season sits right around the corner. With the purple and gold getting ready to unwrap the 2022 campaign, the Golden Eagles and head coach Steve Springthorpe have announced the club's upcoming schedule.
17 regular-season affairs, a pair of exhibition tilts, eight Ohio Valley Conference clashes and an array of sturdy non-conference competition accentuate the squad's approaching fall slate.
The three-month excursion takes center stage with back-to-back exhibition matches that will see the Golden Eagles travel to North Alabama on Aug. 7, before hosting ETSU on Aug. 14. The regular season kicks off with an Aug. 18 home affair against IUPUI that will begin a season-opening stretch of three home contests over the first four tilts for Tech.
"We tried to build a schedule that suits us best from a travel sense, a style of play sense and a competitive sense and I am confident we were able to do that with this fall schedule," TTU head coach Steve Springthorpe said. "There is no doubt that this schedule will challenge us with a number of our non-conference games involving opponents that are consistently in the top tier of their conference and in many cases are winning their respective leagues and making NCAA Tournaments. This should stretch us and challenge us, but ultimately prepare us for when OVC play starts.
"I think the other significant part of this schedule is that for the most part it's regionally based, which has been a goal of ours over the last few years when it comes to building a schedule," Springthorpe continued. "There are so many great teams in Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky and pretty much just all of the surrounding areas, so we have made it an emphasis to put a number of these high-quality programs on our schedule. In terms of travel, it definitely makes life a little easier, but then as I mentioned with the competitive aspect, playing these sorts of schools in the non-conference will only make us better once conference play begins."
Tech's season-opening tangle with IUPUI will be the first of nine straight matches in the state of Tennessee. The Golden Eagles will not leave the Volunteer State during non-conference action with all four road battles to be played within the state. In fact, Tech plays out of state in only three of the club's 17 regular-season matches, including just once over the final month of the regular campaign.
TTU's first road match will see the Golden Eagles flock to Lipscomb on Aug. 21 to lock up with the defending Atlantic Sun champion and the first of four opponents on Tech's slate that made the NCAA Tournament a season ago (at Tennessee – Sept. 4, vs. Samford – Sept. 15, vs. SIUE – Oct. 6). After back-to-back home match matches against Furman on Aug. 25 and Western Kentucky on Aug. 28, the Golden Eagles will embark on the club's longest road swing of the year with three consecutive away from Cookeville thanks to a Sept. 1 get-together at Chattanooga, a Sept. 4 meeting at Tennessee and a Sept. 8 showdown at Middle Tennessee.
"You will definitely see some opponents that we have become accustomed to playing recently, and for the most part, have been able to play in some pretty competitive games with them," Springthorpe noted. "Chattanooga has proven to be a competitive game over the last few years with a lot of players from in the state going at it. Lipscomb is a team that we have played a few times and it has always been a relatively competitive game, so I am happy that we will get to play them again. Similar situation with Middle Tennessee. It's usually a great game and they are right up the road so it's important to have them on our schedule like we do this year."
Tech closes out its non-conference slate with a two-match homestand that will see the purple and gold host UAB on Sept. 11 and Samford on Sept. 15 in a matchup against the defending Southern Conference champion who went on to knock off Auburn in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Golden Eagles open up OVC play with a two-match road trip outside of the state, first heading to Eastern Illinois on Sept. 18, before traveling to Southern Indiana on Sept. 22 in the first ever conference clash against the Screaming Eagles. TTU's OVC home opener will feature another battle against a newcomer to the league, as the Golden Eagles will greet Lindenwood to Tech Soccer Field on Sept. 25.
Following an Oct. 2 trip to UT Martin for a contest against the OVC's defending regular-season champion, Tech will jump into a season-long, three-match homestand against SIUE, the OVC's defending conference tournament champion, on Oct. 6, SEMO on Oct. 16 and Morehead State on Oct. 20. The Golden Eagles will tie a ribbon on the regular season with a trip to Little Rock on Oct. 23 in the first-ever meeting against the Trojans as members of the same league.
"Obviously the OVC has somewhat of a different look and feel to it with some new schools in the mix, but I think the conference does a really good job of trying to keep it equitable as far as travel and spacing out some of the longer trips," Springthorpe said. "With some of the changes, geographically we have turned into somewhat of an outlier, where we used to be more so in the middle and now that isn't necessarily the case, but I think they did a good job of organizing and arranging it in a way that gives us enough rest with some of the byes mixed in there and overall it's a fair conference schedule."
The OVC Tournament is set to begin with first-round action on Oct. 28. Second-round matches are scheduled for Oct. 30, while the semifinals are slated for Nov. 4 and the championship match is set for Nov. 6.
Admission to all regular season home matches at Tech Soccer Field is free of charge.
Photo by Jim Dillon