Click here to view the 2011 soccer schedule
Click here to view the 2011 soccer roster
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. — With just one senior and nine newcomers on the roster, the 2011 season marks a fresh start for head coach Daniel Brizard and the Tennessee Tech soccer team.
The Golden Eagles narrowly missed qualifying for the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament in 2010, one season after advancing all the way to the league championship game. It’s a return to prominence that Brizard is seeking in his second year, and one he hopes begins in preseason camp.
“Last year, I was still getting to know the team in the preseason,” says Brizard, who came to Cookeville from an assistant position at LSU. “This year, I’m trying to integrate nine players into a team that already knows me and I know them.”
In keeping with the theme of a fresh beginning, Tech Soccer Field underwent several renovation projects over the summer, including the installation of a new scoreboard, the shifting of the bleachers from the east side of the field to the west in order to enhance the fan experience on sunny afternoons, and a leveling of the playing surface.
More good news for Brizard is that the Golden Eagles return both their leading goal-scorer in junior forward Andrea Meloff and assists leader in junior midfielder Kerri Reid as well as defensive stalwart and team captain Lindsey Reed, the squad’s only senior.
The head coach will look to those players in particular to guide a team that often struggled to score in 2010.
Meloff and Reid are just two members of a talented junior class that came of age for the Golden Eagles in 2010 as sophomores. Tech returns all five of its leading point-scorers this season — Meloff, Reid, Kris Cambron, Sarah Gawthrop and Jacquie Watkins — and all five are members of the junior class.
With Reed the only senior on the roster, Brizard will lean heavily on his juniors for leadership in 2011.
Beginning with an exhibition on Aug. 11 at Alabama A&M, Tech will play a 20-match schedule which Brizard believes will be competitive while also giving his young squad a chance to grow and develop.
The Golden Eagles will play their first two regular-season matches in the friendly confines of Tech Soccer Field as they welcome in-state foes UT Chattanooga and Belmont to Cookeville for a Friday-Sunday set on Aug. 19 and 21.
After that, however, Tech will embark on a seven-game road swing that will test the team’s mettle, taking them to East Tennessee State, UNC Asheville, Longwood, Radford and Middle Tennessee State, while also matching them against Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State at the Jacksonville State Tournament in Jacksonville, Ala.
The Golden Eagles return home to host Lipscomb before opening OVC play on the road at Eastern Illinois and SIU Edwardsville. Tech Soccer Field will play host to four league foes (Eastern Kentucky, defending champion and preseason favorite Morehead State, Murray State and Austin Peay) while the Golden Eagles will travel to Jacksonville State and close the season with a road swing to UT Martin and Southeast Missouri.
“This is a challenging, well-balanced schedule for what we are trying to accomplish,” Brizard said. “None of these opponents stands out as a ‘powerhouse’ but there are no easy teams on the schedule, either. There are a lot of ‘winnable’ matches, but every time we play it will be very competitive.”
The Golden Eagles were picked to finish ninth out of ten teams this season in OVC preseason polling. TTU will play nine conference matches for the first time this season as SIU Edwardsville enters its first season as a full member of the conference.
At the front of their attack, the Golden Eagles welcome back Andrea Meloff, their leading scorer in 2010, as well as sophomore Ellie Iaciofano, the recipient of the team’s Most Improved Award a season ago.
Meloff scored five goals in 2010, including two game-winners, while also dishing out an assist and posting the squad’s highest shot percentage at .278. Iaciofano was responsible for distributing two assists as a freshman.
Brizard expects big things from both players, and charges them with helping lead an increase in goal production in the upcoming season.
Incoming freshmen Paige Spencer and Amanda Koch will give Tech depth up front as well as bring versatility to fill in at other positions.
The central midfield position will be one of the Golden Eagles’ strongest and deepest, anchored by 2010 All-OVC second team selection Kerri Reid. Reid scored two goals and delivered three assists a season ago while seeing more minutes than anyone on the team.
With Tech’s depth in the midfield this season, however, Brizard says he hopes to be able to give Reid more frequent rests.
“She had to play a lot of minutes last year, and we hope to be able to give her more of a break this season,” he says. “We need her to sustain her competitive spirit and energy throughout the season.”
Sophomore Shannon Rountree and junior Jacquie Watkins return and will join Reid as the squad’s featured attacking midfielders. The Golden Eagles will look to Watkins to follow up on a strong 2010 season in which she scored a goal and contributed two assists. Rountree is known for her intensity and high-energy attitude.
On the wings, Tech will look to juniors Kris Cambron and Sarah Gawthrop, both of whom contributed two goals apiece last season.
Gawthrop expects to settle back in to her natural wing position this season after being somewhat of a positional journeywoman in 2010 due to injuries. Cambron is fresh off a summer in which she played with Cincinnati’s Hammer FC of the Women’s Premier Soccer League.
Junior Emily Homan is also expected to contribute at the wing after a knee injury forced her to take a medical redshirt in 2010.
Midfield will be the area of most opportunity for Tech’s nine incoming freshmen this season. Brizard expects Paige Himebaugh and Chelsea Ladd to compete for a holding mid position while Kelsey McGohan should provide quality minutes as an attacking midfielder.
Sophomore Jessica Wilson and incoming freshman Katie Phillips bring added depth to the midfield.
The Golden Eagles will have two leaders in the backfield in junior Leigh Heffner, who joined Reid as an All-OVC second team selection last season, and Lindsey Reed, the team’s only senior.
“We’re going to look to them to anchor our defense,” Brizard said. “They are both great kids off the field, and they make us more experienced in the back than we are at some of other positions.”
Sophomore Taylor Hicks, a converted forward, will play left back after stepping into the position and performing well a season ago.
At right back, Tech will look to junior Julie Thompson, who played in 13 of 17 games last season despite battling an ankle injury. This year, Brizard wants Thompson to return to form and solidify herself in the right back position.
Incoming freshmen Courtney Dedrick, Hayley Morton and Brooklyn Kimball will also be expected to contribute minutes on the back line.
As a freshman in 2010, Becca Toler quickly emerged as the Golden Eagles’ starting goalkeeper. Coming off a strong summer of training that included a successful tryout with the USA Deaf Soccer Women’s team, she will be Tech’s go-to athlete in the net once again this season.
She allowed 23 goals in nearly 1,200 minutes last fall and saved 75.8 percent of shots while pitching two shutouts. When Toler was in net, Tech posted a 4-7-1 record compared to an 0-4 mark when she did not play.