By Dylan Vazzano, Sports Information Coordinator
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – It's playoff time for the Tennessee Tech soccer team as the No. 3-seeded Golden Eagles will open up the postseason at home, clashing with No. 6 Belmont Sunday at 1 p.m. CT in the first round of the 2016 OVC Tournament. The tourney's single elimination format will put the winner into the semifinals to meet with No. 2 Eastern Kentucky on Nov. 4, while Sunday's losing squad will close the curtain on the 2016 season.
Sunday's playoff match will be broadcast live on the Golden Eagle Sports Network via the Ohio Valley Conference Digital Network. Click here to watch.
Tech (10-6-3, 6-2-2) is in the postseason for the second consecutive year following last season's trip to the OVC Tournament semifinals after the Golden Eagles wrapped up their conference campaign with a second-place finish, the highest in 15 years. The back-to-back playoff appearances mark the first time since 2008-09 that TTU has made the postseason in consecutive years. The Golden Eagles also earned their first double digit win season since 2002, and tie last year's program record with six conference victories.
Tech finds itself as the No. 3 seed in this year's field after the Golden Eagles were upended, 1-0, in Thursday's regular season finale at Eastern Kentucky in a match that had a top two tourney seed on the line. The Golden Eagle defense proved to be stingy yet again in limiting the Colonels to just one shot on-goal in the match, however EKU capitalized on its only chance as junior Jordan Foster split the pipes on a header in the 69th minute for the tilt's lone score.
Despite the loss, Tech wrapped up the regular season as one of the league's top defenses, pacing the conference in goals allowed (13) and goals against average (0.66). Reigning OVC Defensive Player of the Year, sophomore goalkeeper Kari Naerdemann, concluded the regular season first in the OVC with a .849 save percentage while the Herne, Germany native finished second with nine shutouts.
Sunday's match with the Bruins (6-8-4, 5-4-1) will mark the second time Belmont has come to Tech Soccer Field this season after the Golden Eagles bested the Bruins, 2-0, on Sep. 25. Freshman Kaitie Shipley scored her first collegiate goal in the 39th minute to christen the scoring, before a Belmont own goal in the 81st minute essentially put the match on ice. TTU yielded only one shot on-goal en route to the shutout win.
Overall, Tech went 7-1-1 at home in the regular season, highlighted by a perfect 5-0-0 OVC mark in Cookeville. The Golden Eagles did not surrender a goal at home in the month of October and enter Sunday's affair having not allowed a score at Tech Soccer Field in its last 393 minutes of action.
Belmont finds itself in the OVC Tournament for the first time since 2012, the club's first year in the league. The Bruins bounced back after their loss to Tech in late September, rolling off a 4-0-1 record in their next five matches, all of which were shutouts. Belmont did drop two of its last three heading into the playoffs, but managed to win its regular season finale, Thursday at Jacksonville State.
The Bruins lead the all-time series with Tech, 9-6-2, and have a narrow, 3-2, edge since becoming a member of the OVC.
Photo by Jim Dillon