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Tech takes 2-2 tie at Little Rock to claim title outright, cap off OVC’s first undefeated season since 2018

Tech takes 2-2 tie at Little Rock to claim title outright, cap off OVC’s first undefeated season since 2018

By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A late Little Rock goal in the waning minutes of Sunday's regular-season finale forced a 2-2 draw, but two rapid scores in the span of just over two minutes midway through the second half helped push the Tennessee Tech soccer team to an undefeated OVC campaign. A Bronte Peel goal in the 86th minute pulled the Trojans even, but by virtue of the deadlock, TTU officially claims its second-ever regular-season crown outright with 18 points and becomes the first OVC team to go unblemished on its league ledger since UT Martin in 2018.

The Golden Eagles (7-4-5, 5-0-3) cap off the regular season on an eight-match unbeaten streak and will await their opponent in the OVC Tournament semifinals after clinching the No. 1 seed and a double-bye straight to the semis following Thursday night's 1-0 nod over Morehead State. The OVC Tournament semifinals on Nov. 4 and championship match on Nov. 6 will be in Cookeville for the first time ever.

Trailing 1-0 just over a third of the way into the second stanza, freshman Reagan Smiley squared up the contest in the 63rd minute, making the most of her first career start with her first career goal on a drive that found the bottom right corner of the net. Smiley's score was made possible on a Chloe Smith assist that saw Smith tie teammate Yao Giada Zhou for the most assists in the OVC with six. The senior forward concluded the regular season as the conference's leader with 18 points.

Two minutes and 10 seconds later, another rookie put the purple and gold ahead, as freshman Katie Toney roped home the go-ahead score in the 65th minute to catapult Tech to a 2-1 edge. The McMinnville, Tenn. native collected her third goal of the season with a blast off her right foot that found the back-left corner of the net.

Peel put a lid on the second-half seesaw scoring behind the equalizer with less than five minutes remaining on an attempt off her right foot that found the bottom right of the goal. The Branxton, Australia product was part of a late Little Rock frenzy that featured four shots on-goal over the final five minutes of regulation. The Trojans (5-6-5, 2-3-3 OVC) had taken just one shot on-frame prior to the late surge.

Little Rock led the shots battle, 13-8, including 5-3 on-point. Abbie Smith's four tries were the most in the tilt, while Chloe Smith led the Golden Eagles with three attempts.

The Trojans jumped on the board thanks in large part to a Tech hand ball from inside the box that allowed Little Rock a penalty kick chance to unwrap the scoring in the 29th minute. Karina De Paoli lined up the try and buried one into the top right of the net for the only Little Rock shot on-goal in the first half.

The score was the first one yielded by the purple and gold since Oct. 2 at UT Martin, snapping a string of nearly 279 minutes without allowing one to split the pipes. TTU had posted three consecutive clean sheets since the 82nd-minute goal surrendered in Martin.

Maggie Conrad made three saves, all in the last five minutes, and allowed two goals. Peyton Urban picked up one save and allowed two goals over the course of 90 minutes. 

The OVC Tournament first round is set for Friday, Oct. 28, while the second round is slated for Sunday, Oct. 30. The final four will congregate at Tech Soccer Field for the semifinals on Nov. 4 and the championship match on Nov. 6.

Photo by Jim Dillon

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