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Top-seeded Tennessee Tech plays host to Lindenwood in Friday’s OVC Tournament semifinal

Top-seeded Tennessee Tech plays host to Lindenwood in Friday’s OVC Tournament semifinal

By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Armed with the No. 1 seed in the OVC Tournament, the Tennessee Tech soccer team is set to make history over the weekend, as the Golden Eagles will play host to the semifinals and championship match for the first time in program history. Sitting two wins away from the program's second-ever OVC Tournament title as well as appearance in the NCAA Tournament, the Golden Eagles will greet fifth-seeded Lindenwood in Friday's semifinal clash at Tech Soccer Field. Kickoff with the Lions is slated for 4 p.m. CT.

No. 2 SIUE and No. 3 Morehead State, the tourney's other semifinal tussle, is set to get underway at 7 p.m. on Friday. The victors of each affair will meet for all the marbles in Sunday's championship match, scheduled for a 1 p.m. kickoff. Admission all weekend at Tech Soccer Field is free of charge.

All three matches will be broadcast live on ESPN+, with Graham Doty and Pilar Barrio on the call. Click here to watch Tech's Friday semifinal contest. Live stats will also be available. Click here to view.

A look at No. 1 Tennessee Tech

The Golden Eagles (7-4-5, 5-0-3 OVC) will be making their fifth trip to the OVC Tournament semifinals in the last eight years after receiving a double-bye to the tourney's final four by virtue of capturing the regular-season crown and No. 1 seed. Tech rattled off the OVC's first undefeated conference campaign since UT Martin in 2018 to push the purple and gold to their second-ever regular-season championship and first since 1998.

Offensively, TTU led the conference in goals scored with 24 in 16 matches, six more than any other team in the league. Four different Golden Eagles split the pipes at least three times in 2022, led by Chloe Smith's six scores to rank second in the league. The senior forward also generated six assists to tie teammate Yao Giada Zhou for the most in the OVC, which led Smith to the most points in the conference behind 18.

Bailey Taylor, Katie Toney and Allison Lee each had three goals during the regular season, while Giada Zhou and Meredith Nye each found the back of the net twice to help pace Tech's stellar attack.

Defensively, the Golden Eagles turned it up a notch during OVC play to the tune of six clean sheets recorded in eight conference clashes. Tech tied its semifinal opponent Lindenwood for the fewest goals allowed during league action with only four scores surrendered.

Sophomore goalkeeper Maggie Conrad helped guide a TTU defense that knotted Lindenwood for the best goals against average during conference play thanks to a miniscule 0.50 mark. The Cedar Rapids, Iowa native collected 22 saves and posted a .846 save percentage in Tech's eight OVC matches.

The Golden Eagles will be looking to secure a spot in the OVC Tournament championship match for the first time since 2009. TTU has won the tourney title once behind a championship back in 2000 thanks to a 1-0, double-overtime win over Eastern Illinois. Tech advanced to the NCAA Tournament that season for the program's only appearance.

A look at No. 5 Lindenwood

In their first season a Division I program, the Lions (6-7-6, 2-2-4 OVC) wrapped up the regular-season with a fifth-place finish to advance to the OVC Tournament, where they promptly won a pair of affairs to advance to the semifinals.

In a neutral-site gathering in Cape Girardeau, Mo., Lindenwood captured a 2-1 victory over eighth-seeded Southern Indiana in the first round thanks in part to a Lily Sutter goal in the 11th minute and a Maggie Weller net-finder in the 56th minute. The Lions then knocked off the host Southeast Missouri in a quarterfinal tangle that went to penalty kicks. After falling behind 1-0 early in regulation, Lindenwood provided the equalizer on a Jacqueline Baetz goal in the 35th minute before ultimately prevailing 2-0 in the shootout. The Lions were outshot 29-2 in the match.

Lindenwood's defense has paved the way during its successful first season in the OVC, tying Tech for the fewest goals yielded during league action with only four allowed in eight matches. Senior keeper Sam Blazek tied Maggie Conrad for the best goals against average throughout OVC play with a 0.50 mark to go along with a league-leading .930 save percentage in conference-only contests. The Diamond Bar, Calif. product produced 53 saves in eight OVC matches, 13 more than the next closest keeper.

Offensively, Rachel Jackson leads the Lindenwood charge with a team-best four goals and 10 points during the year. Jacqueline Baetz had found the back of the net three times as well, while Lily Sutter sits atop the Lion leaderboard with three assists.

Inside the series

The Lions and Golden Eagles met on Sept. 25 in Cookeville in the first-ever meeting in the all-time series, a match that ended in a scoreless draw. TTU outshot Lindenwood 27-1 for the most overall attempts taken by Tech since 32 tries on Oct. 11, 2014 in a 2-2 draw against Eastern Illinois.

Photo by Jim Dillon

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