By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information Coordinator
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – It was an evening of historical proportions… and in more ways than one. Not only did the friendly confines of Cookeville produce the most fans to ever witness a Tennessee Tech soccer match with a whopping 931, but those on hand saw a slice of history with the first ever Golden Eagle home match under the lights.
Energy, intensity, and electricity (once again in more ways than one) filled the gorgeous summer evening, yet ultimately it was Little Rock that spoiled the season-opening party with an 89th minute score to capture a 2-1 victory.
Squared away at 1-1 with just over a minute remaining in the heated affair, freshman Jaclyn Purvine slipped one into the back of the net to break the knotted tilt. The 5-foot-5 midfielder found herself with just the keeper to beat thanks to a pair of passes from sophomore Fali Garuba and freshman Caitlyn Eddy, both of whom were credited with the assist.
The winning-score capped off a string of late-match dramatics that saw three goals in the span of the final 14 minutes after the first 76 minutes and change were without a net-finder.
Trojan sophomore Quin Wilkes kicked off the scoring brigade with a goal in the 77th minute, capitalizing off a Talia Graves corner that caromed off a Nora Hellmers try, before Wilkes eventually buried the match's first goal. Graves and Hellmers both notched assists on the play.
Despite the setback, the Golden Eagles showed resiliency behind a Taylor Blazei equalizer with just under 10 minutes left in the match. After a nifty move from the edge of the box, the Hartford, Wis. native let one fly that sailed off the near post and deflected into the back of the net.
"I mean what can you saw about Blaze," Golden Eagle head coach Steve Springthorpe said when asked about the tying-goal. "She's a captain and a senior and decided to take matters into her own hands. She made a great individual move, ripped the shot near post, and finished. It's something that she is capable of doing and we hope she will continue to take that leadership role and find goals for us."
The trio of late goals topped off an exciting second half that featured seven second-half saves by Tech freshman Kari Naerdemann, who was making her collegiate debut. In the early stages of the stanza, the Herne, Germany native made a full extension diving halt on a shot ripped from in close by junior Shannon Shields, before winning a one-on-one battle with Shields just four minutes later that resulted in a collision and another spectacular save.
Overall, Naerdemann finished with eight saves. Across the way, Little Rock senior Sara Small ended with one stop. Quin Wilkes and Caitlyn Eddy led the match with five shots apiece, while senior Taylor Sutton paced Tech with three shots.
"I thought we played really well in the first half. We possessed the ball nicely, and although we didn't have very many scoring chances, I think we accomplished what we were looking to do," Springthorpe claimed. "In the second half we didn't play as well as we could. They made a tactical adjustment and pressed us a little more."
"We are going to stay positive. It's disappointing to give up a goal in the last few minutes but we accomplished some good things out there," Springthorpe said. "We will practice, change a few things, and get ready to go on Sunday."
Sunday will see Tech take center stage with in-state foe Middle Tennessee, beginning at 4 p.m. CT. Admission to all Golden Eagle home regular season matches is free of charge.