By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information Coordinator
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Potential, depth, and a knack for scoring highlight the Tennessee Tech soccer team's incoming recruiting class, as the Golden Eagles and head coach Steve Springthorpe welcome six incoming freshmen into the mix after Wednesday's National Letter of Intent Signing Day.
Kelly Allen, Isaeblle Austin, Rachel Blow, Victoria Breeden, Dani Shartouny, and Kaitie Shipley all dotted the I's and crossed the T's Wednesday afternoon, joining the Tech ranks fresh off a stellar 2015 campaign that featured the most conference wins in one season in school history and the highest OVC finish in 15 years.
"It's a good group of players that will help us in some areas, particularly on the attacking side of things," head coach Steve Springthorpe claimed on the incoming group. "We identified certain players and felt like they would be able to have an immediate impact for us. I think we are continuing to move in a great direction and I'm happy that we were able to sign these six players"
"As we looked at our team, and in recruiting you've got to look two years ahead, we knew that a bit of a weakness was the ability to create goal scoring opportunities," Springthorpe continued. "Once we identified that, we found some players that I think will be able to come in here and create some more chances for us."
Kelly Allen comes to TTU as the only player of the six from the state of Tennessee. While suiting up as a midfielder and defender at Roane County High School and the FC Alliance on the club stage, the Rockwood native proved to be a dynamic offensive force with 35 goals and 42 assists throughout her high school career.
"We identified Kelly at our ID camp and she impressed us with her overall athleticism and quickness," Springthorpe said. "She's an attacking player and can play out wide as a winger or up top. She's got desire, aggressiveness, and a willingness to put the ball in the back of the net."
Allen, who boasted 12 scores and 11 assists as a senior, was named to the All-District team for four straight years and the All-Region squad first-team for three seasons.
"It's great to get another Tennessee player, especially one who played out of a great club like FC Alliance. We think Kelly will play an important role on our team," Springthorpe continued.
Isabelle Austin enters the fold as the only goalkeeper in the group, preparing to begin her Tech tenure after a tremendous final club season with the Greater Toledo Futbol Club (GTFC) Impact in Northwest Ohio. During last fall, Austin surrendered a measly nine goals in 27 fall matches, racking up 19 shutouts in the process for a 0.3 goals against average.
"We wanted to strengthen our goal keeper core of players, so we went out specifically looking for one that could challenge for a potential starting spot and I think Isabelle will do that," Springthorpe noted. "I think it's good to be able to bring in a player who will challenge Kari [Naerdemann] and Paige [Overstreet] for playing time and who also has the mentality and willingness to learn."
Austin helped lead GTFC to a State Cup (Ohio North) championship in 2011, a finalist appearance in 2012 and 2014, and a semi-finalist appearance in 2013 and 205. A two-sport athlete, the 5-foot-8 goalkeeper was also a three-year letter winner in basketball at Sylvania Northview High School in Sylvania, Ohio.
"What I like about Isabelle is that she is aggressive, is great with her feet, can knock the ball a decent distance and switch the field," Springthorpe added. "I think she will do well for us and I'm excited that she decided to join our program."
Rachel Blow proved to be an elite offensive player in the club and high school ranks, suiting up for Boca United FC in Boca Raton, Fla. and North Broward Preparatory School in Coconut Creek, Fla. On the high school stage, the four-time letter winner combined for 73 goals and 68 assists throughout her career.
"I had a chance to see Rachel close to a year ago. She plays for a great club team down in Boca Raton that plays very similar to the way we want to," Springthorpe said. "Rachel can play multiple positions as well. With her high school team, she played more of an attacking role, and with her club team, I saw her usually in the back."
The Boca Raton, Fla. native took home first-team All-County Miami Herald recognition and second-team All-County Sun Sentinel honors throughout her high school tenure.
"Rachel's very skillful and understands the game," Springthorpe continued. "She can play out of the back, both in picking a ball up and dribbling, as well as making correct reads and completing passes. She's a possession-oriented type player and that's what we are looking for. She's a good athlete and I think Rachel's got a chance to be a really good player in our program."
Victoria Breeden prepares to don the Tech purple and gold after racking up a number of impressive honors at Hudson High School in Hudson, Ohio. A three-sport athlete, lettering in track and cross country as well, Breeden was a two-time All-Northeast Ohio Conference first-teamer in soccer.
"Victoria was really our first recruit," Springthorpe explained. "We found her a while ago when I first got here. I had the chance to see her play for an extremely good club team, the Ambassadors out of Ohio, and again we were looking for outside backs that are aggressive in getting forward and Victoria brings that aggressive mentality to us."
The Hudson, Ohio native helped pace her high school team to an impressive 39-9-8 overall record in three years with the program, leading them to the district finals in all three seasons.
"Victoria also brings that aggressive mentality to the defensive side," Springthorpe added. "She's not afraid to slide tackle and likes to get forward with the ball. She's skillful and makes great passes. We were excited when Victoria decided to commit to our program and I think she'll do extremely well."
Dani Shartouny showcased her offensive prowess while at North Gwinnett High School in Suwanee, Ga. Lettering for four years as a center midfield, wide midfield, and striker, Shartouny led the team in goals as a junior, and paced the squad in assists as a freshman, sophomore, and junior.
"Dani is a player we found somewhat late," Springthorpe said. "She came to our ID camp and at that point we were specifically looking for attacking players, and Dani fits that role pretty well. She will play as a winger in a three-front and can also play up top in a two-front."
The Sugar Hill, Ga. native was named All-Region two years in a row and took home the school's Golden Boot Award, handed to the player with the most goals scored in both the men's and women's programs.
"Dani's got some great pace to her. She's quick, speedy, a great technical player, likes to combine with other players, and showed us all of this at our ID camp. We are excited to be able to find a player of her quality so late in the recruiting process."
Kaitie Shipley heads to Tech after enjoying a slew of success at the club and high school level, suiting up at Barrie Central Collegiate in Ontario, Canada and with the Bradford Eagles in Ontario. While with Bradford, Shipley played a pivotal role in leading the Eagles to the U18 National Championship last season, pacing the squad in goals and finishing in a tie for third in scores throughout the entire championship tournament. In fact, in the championship match, Shipley's pair of goals helped push Bradford to a 4-0 win over Calgary South West United to capture the gold.
"Kaitie's another winger that can play out wide in a three-front, can play as a target in a 4-5-1, and can also play in a two-front. Overall she's pretty versatile," Springthorpe claimed. "Kaitie's got great pace, speed, and can play with both feet. She can play on the end line and either look to serve or score goals for us."
A multiple sport athlete, Shipley lettered in flag football, swimming, volleyball, track and field and cross country in high school, and has also played hockey where she won the MVP Award at the Walter Gretzky Women's Hockey Tournament a few years back.
"Kaitie can also play in the back if needed, but we are looking at her as an attacking player," Springthorpe added. "She brings a lot of experience and has scored a number of goals in the last few years, and I believe that Kaitie will help us create a number of goal scoring opportunities."
With the additions of these six incoming freshmen, the Golden Eagles are sure to add depth to the roster, especially after graduating just four players from a year ago.
"I think that we will have more depth and we will have depth at every position, where at times we have been relatively thin at certain spots," Springthorpe said. "We also need players to push each other and you do that by depth and having a decent roster size with quality players up and down the roster. I'm confident that ultimately this will be a good class. You don't know for sure until they show up and start training and playing, but at least on paper and from a recruiting perspective, they are the players that we want to have in our program."