By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information Coordinator
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech soccer team wraps up its 2013 campaign this Friday, traveling to Belmont for the weekend's lone affair. The match is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. CDT, and despite the fact that the Golden Eagles (3-14-1, 1-7-1) have already been eliminated from the postseason conference tournament, the mood heading into the season finale is still upbeat.
"Practice has actually been pretty good this week, the mood has lightened up and we are having fun out there," fourth-year head coach Daniel Brizard remarked. "We are not playing for any titles or the conference tournament at this point, but we are still playing for pride, especially with our last game being Belmont and the rivalry that goes with that."
TTU will also be looking to play the role of spoiler come Friday, as Belmont sits right on the outside of the playoff picture. The Bruins (6-8-2, 4-4-1), winners of two straight, are in seventh place in the Ohio Valley Conference, needing a win and some help to jump into the coveted top six postseason spots. A Golden Eagle victory though would officially knock Belmont out of playoff contention.
Tech will also be looking to shake off a tough previous weekend in which the Golden Eagles dropped their final home tilts at Tech Soccer Field. Last Friday TTU took part in its 11th match that was decided by just one goal or that ended in a tie, falling 1-0 to Morehead State. On Sunday Tech broke a scoreless tie in the 70th minute to Eastern Kentucky, but was unable to hold its narrow lead in an eventual 3-1 loss.
"We had our chances against Morehead, giving up the one goal on a mistake. Same thing goes against EKU, we made a few mistakes that led to some scores in the second half," Brizard said in reference to last weekend's pair of defeats. "Heading into the final match we need to limit our mistakes. We need to just play our game and put our stamp on the match."
The Bruins had their crack at both Eastern Kentucky and Morehead State as well last weekend, traveling to Richmond and Morehead, Ky. and leaving with a pair of one-goal victories. Sunday's match against Morehead went right down to the wire before senior Katie Proud smacked one into the back of the net to push Belmont to a 1-0 win.
On Friday the Bruins needed overtime to dispose of Eastern Kentucky, getting a Sydney Omweg goal six minutes into the first OT to earn a hard-fought 2-1 nod. Before Omweg's match-ending heroics, it was the aforementioned Proud who provided the Bruins with the equalizer, knotting the score in the 51st minute.
Proud's two goals led the Knoxville, Tenn. native to the OVC Offensive Player of the Week honor, while teammate Alison Alcott captured the conference's Defensive Player of the Week award in playing all 186 minutes on the weekend and helping anchor a Bruin's defense that surrendered just one total goal.
Belmont holds an all-time series edge of 7-4-2 over Tech, including a 2-1 overtime win in Cookeville in last season's meeting.
Sophomore goalkeeper Jordan Brown tallied seven saves in that battle, as the League City, Texas native currently leads the OVC with 125 saves on the year, a whopping 37 ahead of the next closest competitor. In fact, Brown has already surpassed last year's total of 123 saves, the third highest single-season mark in TTU history and is seven saves away from the number two spot of 132 set by Holly Wildman in 1996.
Brown served as a key piece in the Golden Eagles collection of talented young players, a definite positive for Brizard in the 2013 campaign.
"As far as this season goes, we got some of our younger players some experience that we are going to count on in the coming years," the fourth-year head coach said. "Players like Abi [Gearing], Ashlyn [Flaherty], and Kalyn [Pruett]. I also think some of our younger returners got a little more experience this year. For our seniors that are departing, hopefully they felt they had a good career. I know we weren't as successful as we wanted to be, but I think we are progressing in the right direction."
Tech closed out its final practice of the year in fun fashion, taking part in the Halloween spirit on Thursday by dressing up in costumes.