By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information Coordinator
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – With summer right around the corner, it's already time to start thinking about the fall as first-year Tennessee Tech soccer coach Steve Springthorpe released the team's 2014 schedule. The Golden Eagles will be tested early and often in the upcoming campaign, especially away from Cookeville with 12 of the club's 20 matches on the road, including a season-opening exhibition tilt at Middle Tennessee.
"Looking at the schedule, what is most noticeable is we are on the road a lot," Springthorpe claimed on the slate's initial impressions. "We had a number of returns we needed to fulfill for the upcoming season and in doing so, we will be on the road 12 times this fall, which is a challenge for sure."
TTU's road warriors will encounter a stretch of eight straight away from Tech Soccer Field as the team will go from Sept. 7-Oct. 10 without a home match. The taxing period includes the Golden Eagles' first four Ohio Valley Conference matches, two of which are against 2013's top two teams with a matchup against the regular season champion, UT Martin on Sept. 28, and the OVC Tournament champ, Morehead State on Oct. 5.
"Four straight weekends on the road can make a team tired and weary, so it will be a good mental test for us," Springthorpe said on the crucial stretch. "If we can learn how to handle playing, living, and competing on the road, then we should be able to play at home at a high level. Playing on the road will mean potentially less practice time to make adjustments, so we will have to learn and improve in a game setting, which could be good thing."
The time away from Cookeville could pay huge dividends late in the season, with Tech wrapping up the year playing five of its final six matches at home, including the last three. The Golden Eagles welcome Southeast Missouri to Tech Soccer Field on Oct. 24, SIU Edwardsville on Oct. 26, before closing out the 2014 regular season against Jacksonville State on Oct. 31.
"The conference schedule does set us up to be able to end with the meat of the conference schedule at our place," Springthorpe noted. "If we can get a few road wins at the start of the season, we can get home feeling great about what is before us. The goal for the team will be to put us in a position to make the conference tournament, and we may have that chance if we can play well at home."
TTU will christen the 2014 campaign with a home matchup against East Tennessee State on Aug. 24. The battle will be one of three non-conference opponents that appeared on Tech's 2013 schedule, along with a trip to Chattanooga on Sept. 12, and a road affair with Evansville on Sept. 21.
The Golden Eagles will also take part in the 2014 Trojan Classic hosted by Troy University. Tech will square off with South Alabama, an NCAA Tournament team a year ago, on Aug. 29, before a matchup with Troy, two days later on Aug. 31.
"I am happy that we can open the regular season at home against ETSU, it's always a good thing to start the season on your home pitch before we head into the weekend tournament at Troy against two teams that will really challenge us and show us where we are as a program," Springthorpe commented on the beginning of the non-conference slate. "Those games will lead us into a weekend where we play Georgia State and Western Carolina at home. If we can take the things we learn about the team in those first couple of road games, make some adjustments and fine tune our play, we can hopefully get a few important wins before the start of the conference schedule."
Admission to all of TTU's home matches at Tech Soccer Field is free of charge. Game days and start times are subject to change.