By Dylan Vazzano, Sports Information Coordinator
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – With one match already in the books, the Tennessee Tech soccer team prepares for its first action away from Cookeville, taking aim in the 2014 Trojan Classic this weekend hosted by Troy University in Troy, Ala. The Golden Eagles (0-1-0) will square off with South Alabama on Friday at 1 p.m. CT, before locking arms with host Troy on Sunday at 3 p.m. CT.
"It's all part of the learning process, going on the road, spending four days together and playing two matches in just about 48 hours," first-year head coach Steve Springthorpe claimed on the prospect of hitting the pavement for the first time this season. "This trip will help show us how we play a second game in a short period of time. We will see if we need to change up some things in terms of substitution patterns."
Tech enters the tournament setting having already played in a match, a 5-1 loss to East Tennessee State on Aug. 24. Despite the defeat, the final score is not indicative of the way the Golden Eagles performed. Trailing 2-0 midway through the second stanza, Tech changed the complexion of the affair behind an Abi Gearing goal, set up on a Taylor Blazei corner to chop the deficit in half, 2-1. Ultimately the Buccaneers would add three late scores, but there were some positives to take away from the season-opening tilt.
"When we look at a match, we are going to see some positives and some negatives," Sprngthorpe said on the outcome. "In terms of some of the positives I felt that early in the game, the first half, and midway through the second half, our defense was organized and did a good job of holding a line to create some offside calls. I was really encouraged by that. We also didn't give up many shots on goal in the first half and frankly outside of two set piece goals, I thought we played relatively well in the first."
Looking at South Alabama (1-1-0), the Jaguars are coming off an impressive 2013 campaign that saw them capture the Sun Belt Conference Championship en route to earning a bid to the NCAA Tournament where they were upended by Florida State in the first round.
This season South Alabama rebounded nicely after a devastating opening night home loss to UAB on Aug. 22. With only 2.9 seconds left in the second overtime, the Blazers found the back of the net to spoil the Jaguars home opener, but two days later South Alabama secured a 3-0 win over Nicholls State to even up its record. Freshman Danielle Hensley knocked home two goals in the match, while a stingy Jaguars defense yielded only four total shots, not one of which was on-goal.
Friday will mark the first time that Tech and South Alabama will meet in soccer.
As far as Troy (1-2-0) is concerned, bouncing back has been an early theme of its season as well. After falling in the first two matches to LSU and Louisiana Tech, the Trojans responded with a 6-0 home win over Alabama State on Tuesday in a tilt that saw five different players split the pipes.
Junior Alissa Jones was responsible for two of Troy's six scores, assisting on a third goal as well to wrap up a five-point performance that included a Trojan single-game record of 11 shots. The goal-keeping tandem of freshman Mikki Lewis and senior Caitlin Buono teamed up to keep the Hornets off the board, combining for five saves in the match.
The Golden Eagles seized the only previous matchup between the two programs, a 2-0 win in 1998.