By Dylan Vazzano, Sports Information Coordinator
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – A lengthy weather delay did not damper the Tennessee Tech soccer team's chances as the Golden Eagles fought through a nearly two and a half hour stoppage to roll to a 3-0 victory over Mercer in a 70-minute, weather-shortened match. Tech (3-1-0) is now off to its best start since 2004, shutting out an opponent in three of its first four matches for only the second time in program history (2004).
A 1-0 Tech advantage over the Bears (1-3-0) was put on hold in the 26th minute after lightning was detected in the area, forcing play to be delayed until the lightning was out of range. The stoppage lasted two and a half hours, before a second delay prompted the end of the match in the 71st minute after the required 70 minutes had been played to make it an official contest.
"We are excited that we ended up getting the game in, especially after the lengthy delay, and I'm pleased that we were able to come away with a 3-0 win," TTU head coach Steve Springthorpe said, touching on nearly two and a half hour stoppage. "I thought we played well, and defensively I thought we stepped it up once again in limiting Mercer to only one shot on-goal. It's another step forward for us and we want to keep building on what we are doing and keep getting better."
An early score set the tilt's tempo as the Golden Eagles leapt on the board behind an Abi Gearing goal in the 7th minute. The 5-foot-9 senior took full advantage of a Karigan Owens corner that bounced off a Julia Rebollo try, before Gearing buried it for her club-best third goal of the season. Owens and Rebollo each notched assists on the play, the pair's first of the year.
The set-piece score proved to be a theme for Tech offensively with TTU using two more corners to generate the three-goal cushion. Karigan Owens booted a corner through the back of the net in the 41st minute to give Tech a two-score halftime edge, before another Owens corner led to a third goal in the 68th minute.
The La Grange, Ky. native's blast gave junior Mary Francis Hoots a chance that saw the 5-foot-8 defender send it to sophomore Mayra Tarraga Manzanal, who headed it home for her second career goal. Hoots registered her first assist of the season on play, while Owens collected her second of the match to wrap up a four-point showing for the 5-foot-9 junior.
Defensively, Tech brought the ruckus once again in holding the Bears to just six total shots, only one of which was on-goal. Sophomore Kari Naerdemann was forced to make just one save for the second-straight contest, fending off a Katelyn Dimopoulos attempt in the 50th minute. Naerdemann now has 10 career shutouts to move into second-place on the all-time TTU career list.
Mercer's goalie tandem of senior Christina Mursuli and red-shirt freshman Leah Cochran combined to yield three goals, making five stops in the process with Mursuli tabbing four and Cochran securing one.
The Golden Eagles will next be in action on Sunday, Sep. 4, greeting Louisiana Tech to Tech Soccer Field for a 1 p.m. CT kickoff.