By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information Coordinator/Soccer Contact
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The 2014 Tennessee Tech soccer season is upon us, and the "new look" Golden Eagles are ready to christen the campaign with a season-opening matchup against in-state foe East Tennessee State on Sunday at Tech Soccer Field. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. CT.
Admission to Sunday's home opener is free of charge. The match will also be streamed live on the Ohio Valley Conference Digital Network via the Golden Eagle Sports Network with Dylan Vazzano calling all the action for the second consecutive season. CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE.
Sunday will mark the official TTU coaching debut of first-year head coach Steve Springthorpe, who joined the Golden Eagle ranks last December after enjoying success as an assistant coach at Duke and head coach at NC State and Fresno State. Heading into the 2014 opener, Springthorpe's focus remains on improving his squad day-in and day-out with just a few practices remaining before Sunday.
"I'm assuming when game day comes I'll be pretty excited about it, but right now it's about our team getting better every day and we are going to continue to do the best we can to do that," the first-year head coach claimed. "We are continuing to learn and practice to the best of our abilities. We are still learning to play with each other and are using different combinations of players and formations to help accomplish that. Hopefully we are putting ourselves in the best position to be successful on Sunday."
Springthorpe and the rest of the Golden Eagles have already unofficially kicked off the year with an exhibition tilt on Aug. 14 against Middle Tennessee, a 4-0 Tech loss. Despite the defeat, 19 players saw action and with a TTU club that is made up of 11 freshmen, the experience should pay dividends heading into the matchup with ETSU.
"The win or loss wasn't a big deal to us, it was more about evaluating the team to see where we are and how we want to improve, and ultimately because of that game we are doing some things differently to prepare for Sunday," Springthorpe said on the meeting with Middle Tennessee. "After I went back and relaxed outside of the game setting and looked at film, I thought we were doing some things that we wanted to do in terms of the type of soccer that we wanted to play."
Senior forward Amanda Koch led the Golden Eagles with two shot attempts against the Blue Raiders, looking sharp after missing the majority of the 2013 season with a knee injury. A pair of freshmen, Karigan Owens and Lauren Brewer, each notched a shot as well, two of the 11 Golden Eagle rookies that are expected to see a number of minutes for Tech in 2014.
"With 23 players on our roster, literally half of them have no collegiate experience whatsoever," Springthorpe noted. "These younger players are going to have to play a lot for us with the roster that we have. Some of them are going to be expected to play quality minutes and some of them will start, too."
TTU wrapped up last season with a 3-15-1 record, going 1-8-1 in the Ohio Valley Conference while the Buccaneers posted a 7-9-2 overall mark, finishing 3-5-1 in the Atlantic Sun. The two teams locked up in Johnson City last year with the Golden Eagles claiming a 1-0 victory behind a third-minute score and lights out defense.
This year East Tennessee State has moved to the Southern Conference, taking last year's A-Sun Player of the Year, Sarah Zadrazil, with them. The St. Gilgen, Austria native topped last season's Bucs with eight goals and 11 assists, running her career assist total to 21 goals, second-most on ETSU's all-time list.
The Buccaneers will open up their season on Friday, hosting Radford University under the lights at 7 p.m. EST.
Admission to all Golden Eagle home regular season games is free.