By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – A Senior Day success story took center stage for the Tennessee Tech soccer team, as the Golden Eagles carded a 3-0 victory over Southeast Missouri Sunday afternoon at Tech Soccer Field to remain undefeated and in first place in the Ohio Valley Conference.
TTU (6-4-4, 4-0-2 OVC) tallied a goal in the first and two more in the second, both scored by seniors, to run its unbeaten streak to six consecutive, adding to an already program record best start to conference play. Coupled with a Morehead State 1-0 nod at Lindenwood on Sunday, Tech and Morehead remain tied atop the league with identical 4-0-2 OVC marks for 14 conference points. The two squads will meet Thursday, Oct. 20 at Tech Soccer Field.
"We knew coming into today that it was going to be a major battle," Golden Eagle head coach Steve Springthorpe said. "SEMO has always played us tough over the years and the first 15 minutes were a definite fight out there, but we were fortunate to find a goal and that helped our confidence. You come into a match like this and there is a lot of Senior Day and pre-game things going on, so I think we might have been a little jittery at the beginning, but we held strong and found a goal that helped propel us through the rest of the game. Overall, we played well today and I am excited to come away with a victory like that."
Allison Lee helped get the Golden Eagles off and running with her third goal of the season in the 26th minute, before seniors Chloe Smith and Bailey Taylor put the finishing touches on Tech's offensive attack with scores in the 55th and 67th minutes.
The Golden Eagles produced 24 shots, the second-most in a match this year, while defensively, TTU limited SEMO (6-6-2, 2-2-2 OVC) to just seven shots for the third-lowest tries against Tech in a tilt this season. Maggie Conrad needed just three saves to help push the purple and gold to their fifth shutout in six OVC contests, snapping Southeast Missouri's four-match unbeaten streak in the process.
"I think we finished relatively well today, we did have some other chances out there, but overall I'm proud of our ability to create opportunities," Springthorpe noted. "We had 24 shots, which is a strong number for us. We were aggressive in the attacking end and that's really been the case throughout the last couple of games. I'm happy with the way our offense is clicking, but I am also excited about our defense and the way we are performing with another shutout this afternoon."
Tech notched set-piece scores in two of the three goals, including Lee's net-finder in the first half. Macy Carter lined up a free kick from deep that connected with Emily Carlevato, who quickly fed Lee for the open look in front. Carlevato captured her second assist of the season, while Carter collected her first career assist in her 56th career match.
TTU's second-stanza surge featured contributions from the seniors, with Smith and Taylor each posting three-point second halves. Katie Toney aided on the first goal with a pass to Taylor, who then roped a perfect cross to a waiting Smith, who took care of the rest for her OVC-leading sixth goal of 2022. Toney and Taylor each picked up assists on the play that propelled the Golden Eagles to a 2-0 advantage in the 55th minute.
Roles were reversed in the 67th minute, as Smith set up Taylor for Tech's third goal of the afternoon that essentially put the contest out of reach. A Smith free kick from just outside the box connected with Taylor, who then split the pipes for her second goal of the year. Smith's assist was her fifth, the second-most in the conference, trailing only Yao Giada Zhou's six for the highest total in the league.
"I am particularly happy for our seniors today," Springthorpe said. "Chloe and Bailey both scored goals, which was great to see them do on Senior Day. Bailey has been coming off the bench at times, but had her opportunity to start today and took advantage of it. She was just awesome and played like a senior with a lot of experience. And then of course Chloe played excellent. Overall though, I am glad we found a way to get all the seniors in the game and they all played well."
Taylor's six shots led everyone in the match, while Smith and Giada Zhou each attempted four. Zoe Houston and Megan Heisserer led the Redhawk attack with two attempts apiece. Freshman Sophia Elfrink secured six stops in between the pipes for SEMO.
Prior to the match, Tech honored their senior class of Sarah Block, Emily Carlevato, Macy Carter, Anna Croxall, Meg Ivey, Chloe Smith and Bailey Taylor. All seven Golden Eagles appeared in the affair.
With a chance at the OVC regular-season championship on the line, TTU will shift its attention to a first-place showdown with Morehead State, slated for Thursday, Oct. 20 at Tech Soccer Field. Admission is free of charge and kickoff is set for 7 p.m. CT.
"You think back at the start of the season and hope you can be in this position late in the year and we have now found ourselves in this spot," Springthorpe said. "I like the position we are in, but obviously you never know what can happen. You still have to come out, play hard and bring the energy for every game. You have to play your best because right now there are plenty of teams in our conference vying for postseason seeding and positioning. We are still doing what we can to have our best seeding possible in the tournament and Thursday night will be crucial. Morehead State has been playing very well, and with both teams coming in with the same record, it should be a battle."
Photo by Jim Dillon