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Golden Eagles advance to OVC Tournament championship match behind 5-0 win over Lindenwood

Golden Eagles advance to OVC Tournament championship match behind 5-0 win over Lindenwood

By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – In its first-ever hosting assignment in the OVC Tournament semifinals, the top-seeded Tennessee Tech soccer team certainly did not disappoint a raucous Cookeville crowd. Thanks to a pair of scores in the first, and three more in the second, the Golden Eagles knocked off No. 5 Lindenwood 5-0 to advance to Sunday's OVC Tournament championship match for the first time since 2009.

Tech's five goals scored tied the second-most ever by an OVC team in the tournament and were the most in the semifinal round or later. Morehead State beat Murray State 5-1 in the 2014 first round and in the first-ever OVC Tournament clash, Middle Tennessee claimed a 6-1 victory over UT Martin in 1999. TTU's five scores are also the most in a match by the purple and gold since a 7-0 win at Alabama State on Sept. 4, 2009.

By virtue of No. 2 SIUE's 2-0 victory over No. 3 Morehead State in the second semifinal of the evening, the Golden Eagles (8-4-5) will clash with the Cougars for the title and ensuing NCAA Tournament berth Sunday at 1 p.m. CT from Tech Soccer Field. TTU will be in search of its second conference tournament crown and first since 2000. The Golden Eagles will head into the title tilt on a nine-match unbeaten streak to tie the 2017 squad for the longest unblemished streak in program history.

"I thought we started really, really fast and had some opportunities within the first five minutes, which was encouraging because you never know what can happen after sitting for 10 days waiting to play like we did," Golden Eagle head coach Steve Springthorpe said. 'I'm proud of our team and effort early on. We were able to find a goal relatively early that I think did a lot in getting us started. I'm really excited for our players and am really excited to get this win that moves us to the championship match."

A further piece of program history shined brightly for the purple and gold, as Chloe Smith recorded the eighth hat trick in program history and Tech's second-ever in the OVC Tournament. Jenn Hoffman split the pipes three times in a 3-2, overtime victory over Eastern Illinois in the first round of the 2009 tournament in Morehead.

Smith's three scores made her the fifth Golden Eagle ever to tally a hat trick and it was Tech's first since Kendall Powell did the honor in a 4-0 win at Purdue Fort Wayne on Sept. 2, 2018. After Bailey Taylor unwrapped the scoring with her fourth goal of the year in the 27th minute, Smith quickly doubled up the TTU margin with her first score of the evening only a minute and 20 seconds later to extend the Tech lead to 2-0. The Cincinnati, Ohio product assisted on the first goal as well to make it a seven-point evening for the senior forward. Taylor added an assist on Smith's score in the 29th minute.

Smith scored her next two goals on penalty kicks, first splitting the pipes 36 seconds into the second half, before capping off her hat trick with a 57th-minute net-finder in the 57th minute.

"Chloe was fantastic tonight," Springthorpe noted. "I mean getting a hat trick in a game like this is an amazing accomplishment. She was creative tonight and found a way to stick it into the back of the net. That's honestly what you hope for out of your senior captain, to do something of that magnitude in a setting like this. And then of course, Bailey Taylor was also fantastic in creating goals and scoring opportunities for our team."

Taylor Clark capped off Tech's scoring with an unassisted goal in the 85th minute. The Golden Eagles outshot the Lions, 19-5, paced by a career-high eight attempts by Taylor. Lindenwood (6-8-6) was led by both Rachel Jackson and Karleigh Daniels thanks to two tries apiece.

"Lindenwood is really a great organized team that makes it tough on you as we saw in our regular-season meeting with them," Springthorpe said. "Congratulations to them on a great season in making it to the final four of this tournament. The coaches and players do a great job, and again they are a team that is always organized and is difficult to break down. We were able to make some adjustments from the last time we played them and worked on some things during practice this week. I couldn't be happier for our team and am just so proud of their effort."

Maggie Conrad halted two shots en route to her seventh clean sheet of the season. Sam Blazek also stopped two attempts across the way.

TTU and SIUE will convene in Cookeville in Sunday's championship match for the right to go to the NCAA Tournament. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. CT and admission to Tech Soccer Field is free of charge. The Golden Eagles bested the Cougars 2-0 in the regular-season gathering on Oct. 6 in Cookeville.

Photo by Jim Dillon

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