By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Following a 35-minute lightning delay just prior to the start of the match, it proved to be well worth the wait for the Tennessee Tech soccer team, as the Golden Eagles put together an offensive outburst on the way to a 4-1 win over Furman Thursday night at Tech Soccer Field.
TTU (1-2-0) entered the start of a brief two-match homestand winless and goalless on the season, but the purple and gold broke through in a big way en route to its highest scoring output since a 4-0 victory at Purdue Fort Wayne on Sept. 2, 2018. The quartet of goals marked the program's highest home showcase since a 4-1 Tech Soccer Field triumph over Chattanooga on Sept. 6, 2007.
Bailey Taylor kick-started TTU's offensive charge with a 19th-minute score for the club's first goal of the season, before the Golden Eagles went off with three goals in a 13-minute span early in the second half to essentially put the affair on ice. Chloe Smith powered a pair in the back of the net with strikes in the 47th and 51st minutes, while Allison Lee put the finishing touches on Tech's surge with a net-finder in the 60th minute. Yao Giada Zhou assisted on three Golden Eagle goals, tying the second-most assists in a single match in program history.
"I'm extremely happy about tonight's outcome and the way we played," Golden Eagle head coach Steve Springthorpe said. "We started the season with some exhibition matches, then lost our home opener which was disappointing for us before a tough game against Lipscomb on Sunday. We came into tonight and were still trying to find ourselves. You start thinking about 'okay, how are we and who are we,' but to come out and score as many goals as we did was just awesome to see. There was no doubt about it, we played well and it was a great experience for our players tonight."
Taylor unwrapped the scoring with her ninth career goal in the 19th minute, capitalizing on a Giada Zhou feed along the goal line that put the Golden Eagle senior in a prime position to finish for Furman's first score yielded this year. Leading 1-0, the Tech defense took it from there on the way to holding the Paladins (2-1-0) to just one shot on-goal over the first 45 minutes to take the narrow edge into intermission.
Early in the second stanza, Smith took over to the tune of two goals in just a four-minute span to pad the purple and gold's advantage to 3-0 by the 51st minute. The Cincinnati, Ohio native's first score of the season saw Smith secure a Giada Zhou pass before blasting a bullet from the left side of the box into the right side of the net in the 47th minute. Moments later, Taylor got involved in the act, first feeding Giada Zhou, who then smacked a drive into the box where Smith headed one home for her second goal of the contest and the ninth of her TTU career. Taylor's assist gave the Powell, Tenn. product a three-point evening.
"Chloe was great tonight," Springthorpe said. "She's the kind of player where confidence plays such a big factor, and when she's feeling it, things seem to click for her which is what I thought happened tonight. She scored that first goal and then it just kind of built from there. That backside header she had for her second goal was impressive, and overall, it was just a fantastic performance out of her. I'm happy for Chloe. She's a senior captain who stuck around an extra year and I'm excited that she had the kind of showing she did tonight."
Smith capped off her five-point evening with her first assist of the year on Tech's final goal of the night. The 5-foot-8 forward set up for a corner and connected with Allison Lee, who split the pipes on a header for the freshman's first collegiate goal.
As far as Giada Zhou is concerned, her three-assist effort and overall impact did not go unnoticed by Tech's head coach.
"Giada just buzzes around all over the place and plays an impact," Springthorpe noted. "[Associate head coach] Corey [Boyd] does such a great job coaching her and working with her. She was releasing passes early and taking space when she needed to and has played really well so far this season, especially in regards to decision making and passing."
Maggie Conrad collected her first collegiate victory in between the pipes behind one stop and zero goals allowed in over 75 minutes of action. Addison Johnson appeared in-net for the final 14 minutes and change and allowed one goal and secured her first career save. The Paladins, who outshot Tech 13-11, scored in the 84th minute thanks to a Valentina Mosquera drive that snuck under the crossbar to put Furman on the board.
A season-high 22 Golden Eagles found their way onto the pitch. Taylor tied Julie Galie for the most individual shots in the match with three apiece.
After checking the win column for the first time in 2022, the Golden Eagles will close out their homestand with a Sunday, Aug. 28 clash against WKU. First kick with the Lady Toppers is set for 6 p.m. CT. Admission to Tech Soccer Field is free of charge.
Photo by Jim Dillon