By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information Coordinator
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. - The Tennessee Tech soccer team heads into its second week of action hungry to bring home the first wins of the 2013 campaign. The Golden Eagles battled through two matches in their opening week of play, coming up just short in both affairs with a 1-0 loss to Kennesaw State last Friday and a 2-1 defeat against Evansville in the home opener on Sunday.
This week presents a pair of challenges in the form of Alabama State on Friday at home, before the Golden Eagles travel to Northern Kentucky for the squad's first official road tilt on Sunday.
"The girls realize there will be a bit of a learning curve in terms of new players and getting them involved, along with learning the system and figuring out everyone's roles in it," claimed head coach Daniel Brizard on the early play of his club. "We are not far off though. We are close and the girls know that. The attitude is still great, everyone is very positive, and we realize that a little bit extra will get us over the hump."
Defensively, Tech has looked sharp in their first two clashes, thanks in large part by the play of its sophomore goalkeeper Jordan Brown. The League City, Texas native wrapped up the first week with an Ohio Valley Conference high 20 saves, including 13 in the 2-1 loss against Evansville, Brown's second highest output of her young career.
Offensively, Brizard and the rest of the Golden Eagles understand that the tide needs to turn. Tech managed just nine shots and two on-goal in its first two matches.
"Defensively we are pretty decent, but our transition into attacking is lacking," said Brizard. "We don't have enough shots on frame, are not having enough attempts in or around the box, and are not asking enough questions of the goalkeepers that we have played against. So, right now the focus is going forward offensively as a team and hopefully putting the ball in the back of the net."
Tech's lone score on the young season came from its talented senior forward Ellie Iaciofano, last year's team leader in goals and points. The 2012 All-OVC second-teamer found the back of the net in Sunday's match against Evansville, scoring only 48 seconds into the tilt. The Golden Eagle offensive numbers are slightly misleading, as Iaciofano has also had two goals taken off the board thanks to a late foul call against Kennesaw State and an offsides call against Evansville.
If the past is any predictor of the future, Tech should find solace in this week's matchups. The Golden Eagles are unbeaten all-time against Alabama State and Northern Kentucky, albeit with just one previous meeting with each school. Tech defeated Alabama State, 7-0, back on Sep. 4, 2009, and took out Northern Kentucky, 3-2, at home on Aug. 31 last year.
Last year's clash with Northern Kentcuky featured a pair of Iaciofano scores, one of which saw current junior Amanda Koch pick up an assist. The Norse had goals from current sophomore Martha Staab and senior Megan Frye. The Golden Eagles outshot NKU 23-9. Northern Kentucky has gotten off to an 0-1-1 start, losing to Robert Morris 1-0 and drawing with OVC foe Murray State, 0-0.
As far as Alabama State is concerned, the Hornets are 1-1 with a 3-0 season opening loss to Troy University, before blowing out South Carolina State, 5-0. Alabama State had four players join the scoring party in the victory, as sophomore Alayna Smith and juniors Alexandria Cannon and Pienimaki Iita each split the pipes once, and freshman Ally Murphy did the honors twice.
"If we want to be successful this weekend we need to play the way we want to play," said Brizard on the keys for a triumphant weekend. "We need to impose our style of play on the other team and not just defend the whole time. We have to find a way to get more shots and with that more goals."
Friday's match vs. Alabama State is a scheduled 4 p.m. start at Tech Soccer Field and admission is free. Last Sunday, the team drew a crowd of nearly 800 to fill the stands. Sunday's battle at NKU Soccer Stadium is slated to begin at 11 a.m.