By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech soccer team sealed the deal on its season-long, three-match road swing in grand fashion, as the Golden Eagles exploded for a trio of scores en route to a 3-1 nod at Middle Tennessee State Thursday evening in Murfreesboro.
Tech's second-highest goal output of the season featured a Chloe Smith score in the 17th minute, a Yao Giada Zhou net-finder in the 56th minute and an own goal in the 59th minute to put the finishing touches on TTU's final road non-conference clash of the season. The Golden Eagles (2-3-2) will march into a two-match homestand against UAB and Samford having gone unbeaten in four of the last five contests, with the squad's only defeat during the stretch coming at the hands of the defending SEC champion, Tennessee.
"I'm excited to get a win like this tonight, it's never easy to come into an environment like this against a tough MTSU team and leave with a victory, but our team showed a lot out there," Tech head coach Steve Springthorpe said. "Coming off a 7-0 loss to Tennessee, I felt we had a lot to prove in terms of who we are and to try and see if we can get on some sort of roll late in the non-conference season. Credit goes to our group tonight. I thought they came out with a lot of passion and a lot of fire. We played hard and found a way to get it done when we needed to."
Smith unwrapped the scoring with her team-leading third goal of 2022 just over a third into the first stanza, capitalizing on a Yao Giada Zhou feed that put the senior forward in an opportunistic situation to make a play. Smith streaked down the sideline, took on an MTSU defender and cut it back before slamming one inside the far post to push the purple and gold ahead. Giada Zhou picked up her club-best and OVC-leading fourth assist of the year on the goal, before the San Michele al Tagliamento, Italy native did the damage herself early in the second half.
Leading 1-0, Giada Zhou doubled up the Tech margin with her first goal of the season, becoming the sixth different Golden Eagle to find the back of the net this year with a blast in the 56th minute. Emily Carlevato started the scoring charge with a pass to Smith, who then connected with a racing Giada Zhou for the finish out in front. Carlevato's carom gave the Knoxville, Tenn. product her first assist of her career, while Smith tabbed her third assist of the season to finish with a three-point evening.
TTU tied a ribbon on its offensive output with an MTSU own goal that saw Taylor Rhodes put a hard-driven ball across the face of the goal and ultimately off a Blue Raider defender that was tracking back facing her own net in an attempt to prevent a Golden Eagle finish.
"Tonight, it was all about quality finishing," Springthorpe noted. "We didn't have a ton of shots, but what we did have were great goals where we found a way to finish. Chloe came up big in making a strong individual play with a Chloe-esque shot on the first goal and then Giada made a great run across the end line to put herself in a position to score on the second one. Even if you look at the last one, while it was an own goal, I thought that it came off the pressure that we put on them and a great cross by Taylor."
The Blue Raiders (2-3-1) avoided the shutout late in the second frame, scoring on an Eleanor Gough goal in the 88th minute. The 5-foot-7 junior split the pipes on a Campbell Kivisto hook up that allowed Kivisto to check the assist box on the play.
Sophomore Maggie Conrad tied a career-high with seven saves on the way to her second win as a collegiate keeper. MTSU outshot Tech 18-8, which included an 8-5 edge in shots on-frame. The two teams attempted six shots each in the first half.
"I thought Maggie had a really good game tonight," Springthorpe said. "She showed a lot of leadership back there, especially for a young player. MTSU put a lot of pressure on with a series of attempts from deep in the second half. If you look at the first half, the shots were even, but then in the second they applied more pressure. Not only did we handle it well defensively, but I thought we found a way to capitalize on some transition opportunities as well."
Overall, Emma Peterson paved the way with three total shots, while Smith, Giada Zhou and Rhodes paced the purple and gold with two tries apiece.
The Golden Eagles will return to Cookeville for the final two non-conference contests of the regular season, with a Sunday, Sept. 11 battle against UAB serving as the first in the pair of affairs. Kickoff with the Blazers is set for 1 p.m. CT and admission to Tech Soccer Field is free of charge.
Photo by Jim Dillon