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Golden Eagle soccer picked third in OVC’s preseason poll, Smith selected as Tech’s Player to Watch

Golden Eagle soccer picked third in OVC’s preseason poll, Smith selected as Tech’s Player to Watch

By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – With the start of the 2022 season a stone's throw away, the Ohio Valley Conference released its predicted order of finish Thursday morning as well as the league's Player to Watch list.

Following a vote from the conference's head coaches and sports information personnel, the Golden Eagles were chosen to finish third in the nine-team league, the club's highest preseason selection since the 2018 campaign. SIUE, who captured its second-consecutive OVC Tournament title last year, was picked as the conference's top squad with a league-best 123 points and 11 first-place votes, while UT Martin, the defending regular-season champion, was selected to finish second thanks to 119 points and seven first-place votes. No other team received a first-place vote.

From an individual perspective, reigning All-OVC first-teamer, Chloe Smith, was chosen as Tech's Player to Watch.

The Golden Eagles are coming off a strong 2021 season that saw the purple and gold surge to the OVC Tournament semifinals for the fourth time in the last seven years. Tech collected wins over Eastern Illinois and Murray State in the league's playoff tourney, marking just the third time in program history that the Golden Eagles claimed two postseason victories in a single season.

Tech caught fire toward the end of the regular season and into the OVC Tournament to the tune of an eight-match unbeaten streak that started at the beginning of October and carried the purple and gold into its semifinal bout at top-seeded UT Martin. The Golden Eagles went 5-0-3 during the stretch for the club's second-longest unbeaten stretch in program history.

Chloe Smith's selection as Tech's Player to Watch is well warranted after a standout 2021 campaign that saw the 5-foot-8 senior forward finish sixth in the OVC with 12 points, tied for seventh in league with four goals and tied for sixth in the conference with four assists. The Cincinnati, Ohio product finished third in the OVC with 40 total shots and topped the league with 2.86 attempts per contest.

Smith turned it on down the stretch, scoring three goals and collecting three assists over the final six matches of the regular season. The All-OVC first-teamer carried that success into TTU's postseason run behind a crucial score in the 23rd minute that put Tech on the board in an eventual 2-1 victory at Murray State in the OVC Tournament quarterfinals.

Smith and the rest of the Golden Eagles will host ETSU Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. CT for the final exhibition clash of the year, before TTU greets IUPUI to Tech Soccer Field on Aug. 18 for the regular-season opener at 7 p.m. Admission to both matches is free of charge.


(As selected by the OVC Women's Head Soccer Coaches and Communication Directors)

            1.  SIUE (11 first-place votes) - 123
            2. UT Martin (Seven first-place votes)- 119
            3.  Tennessee Tech - 96
            4.  Little Rock - 72
            5. Southeast Missouri - 71
            6. Morehead State - 58
            7. Eastern Illinois - 51
            8. Southern Indiana - 42
            9. Lindenwood - 16 


Players to Watch
Amanda DaSilva - 5th year, MF - Eastern Illinois
DaSilva enters third year as a member of EIU team and will serve as the senior player in EIU's midfield having started 16 of 17 matches last season.  She was one of five position players to log more than 1,200 minutes on the field last season.
Sam Blazek, Sr., GK - Lindenwood
Blazek is back this year after missing half of last season due to injury. She a first team all-conference goalie in 2020 after posting four shutouts and ranked top 15 in the country in total minutes played and save percentage.
Natalee Geren, 5th year, D - Little Rock
Geren is entering her fifth season at Little Rock where she has helped the Trojan defense record 32 shutouts over her four seasons. She has played over 5,600 minutes in her career, starting 50 of her 53 matches played. She is on pace to break into the program's top 10 of number of games started.
Michelle Jerantowski, Sr., GK- Morehead State
Last season, Jerantowski started in all 18 matches, logging 1,615 minutes in goal. She made 76 saves while allowing 21 goals for a save percentage of 1.17, and finished the season tied for 5th in most shutouts in a season in program history with five. 
Elizabeth Rater, So., MF - Southeast Missouri
Rater, a 2021 OVC Second-Team and All-Newcomer Team Selection, led Southeast Missouri offensively in 2021 with three goals and was second on the team with six points (3g). In conference play, she paced the Redhawks with two goals and four points in eight games.
Lily Schnieders, Jr., F - SIUE
Schnieders was a First Team All-OVC Selection last year. She was second in the league with 19 total points and 1.06 points per game. She also led the Conference with 48 total shots in 2021.
Maya Etienne, Sr., GK - Southern Indiana
Etienne set the USI career-record for shutouts with 29 after recording eight last season. She led the team with a 0.81 goals-against average in 16 started and 1453 minutes of action. She made 54 saves and posted a 10-5-1 record in 2021.
Chloe Smith, Sr., F - Tennessee Tech
Smith, an All-OVC First Team selection last year, finished sixth in the OVC in points with 12 while tying for seventh in goals with four. She also ranked sixth with four assists. Smith finished third in the league with 30 total shots and led the conference with 2.86 shots per game.
Maria Castaldo, Sr., D - UT Martin
Castaldo started all 18 games and tallied a pair of assists last season. She also recorded 10 shots, seven of which were on goal. She was part of a defense that surrendered a conference-low 16 goals. 


Photo by Jim Dillon


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