By Dylan Vazzano, Sports Information Coordinator
MURRAY, Ky. – It was a banner evening for the Tennessee Tech soccer team at the OVC Awards Banquet as a slew of Golden Eagles captured All-Conference honors behind one of the best seasons in program history.
Sophomore Kari Naerdemann took home the OVC's Defensive Player of the Year award for the second-straight season, and was one of three Golden Eagles to be named to All-Conference first team, joining senior Abi Gearing and junior Lauren Brewer on the prestigious list as Tech became the only school in the conference with three first teamers. Junior Karigan Owens was named to the All-OVC second team, while freshman Nora Vicsek secured a spot on the All-Newcomer team.
Kari Naerdemann becomes the first Golden Eagle to win back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year awards since Kelli McCoy, who hoisted the hardware in 1999 and 2000. The Herne, Germany native leads the conference in both goals against average (0.62) and save percentage (.859), and is tied with EKU's Anna Hall for first in the league with 10 shutouts.
"We are happy for Kari for getting this award for the second-straight year. She's had another great season and has really stepped it up in conference play as things got moving the second half of the year," TTU head coach Steve Springthorpe said. "She continues to play at the high level that she's been at for the last two years and the conference has recognized what she does for our team. We are thankful to the coach's and media personnel who voted for her."
Naerdemann accompanies Abi Gearing on the All-OVC first team for the second-consecutive year as the duo becomes the first Golden Eagles to take down first team honors in back-to-back seasons since TTU hall of famer Jill Burns in 2002-03.
Playing primarily as a defender, Gearing has paced Tech with a career-high six goals this season to rank seventh in the OVC. The Libertyville, Ill. native also has two assists to put her in seventh in the conference with 14 points.
"Abi's honor was much deserved as she's had another great season for us as a senior," Springthorpe claimed. "She was able to score some goals for us from a very defensive position and also sweeps things up in front of our back line. Abi's done just about everything you could possibly do as a senior. We challenged her in some areas and she excelled in those areas and has become a captain. She helped us get this program to where it is now and I'm happy the conference has recognized her for her accomplishments this year."
Lauren Brewer rounds out Tech's trio of first teamers, helping anchor a TTU defense as a key member on the back line. The Crestwood, Ky. native has played a pivotal role for a Golden Eagle defense that leads the conference in goals allowed (13) and goals against average (0.62). Brewer also joins Kari Naerdemann as the only two Tech players to play in each and every minute this season, tallying 1,875 minutes of action.
"I'm really happy for Lauren. If you think about how far she has come after making a position change, it's special," Springthorpe said. "Lauren's a tireless worker and brings it every day in practice and then carries that game in and game out. She doesn't get the stats, but can do just about everything from a defensive position. She's definitely a big reason for the success of our team and I'm really excited that the conference has recognized her as a first team All-OVC player."
Karigan Owens finds herself on the All-OVC second team for the second-straight year. The La Grange, Ky. native leads the conference with eight assists this season, scoring three goals as well to give her 14 points, seventh most in the OVC. Owens ranks fourth on the team with 1,839 minutes played this season.
"If you look at it, it's another defensive player that had a great season for us. Karigan played really well as the conference season progressed and heading into the playoffs," Springthorpe noted. "She also brings so much to us in the attack with set pieces and her service ability. Karigan has been defending really well and it's great that she was able to equal what she did last year and make the second team again."
Nora Vicsek reserved a spot on the All-Newcomer team thanks in large part to her ability to come up in the clutch. The Budapest, Hungary native is second on the Golden Eagles with four goals, all of which have been game-winning scores, a mark good enough for third place in the conference. Vicsek helped propel Tech during conference action with three-straight game-winning goals in nods over Southeast Missouri, UT Martin and SIUE from Oct. 14-21.
"Nora has had a great second half of the conference season for us. It took her a little time to adjust coming over here from Hungary, but she's played some of her best soccer in OVC action," Springthorpe said. "She had those three game winners and was recognized for that. She's played a lot of minutes for us and has created a lot of goal-scoring opportunities as a freshman."
Armed with five conference honors, No. 3 Tech is set to play No. 2 Eastern Kentucky in Friday's semifinals of the OVC Tournament. First kick from Murray, Ky. is slated for 11 a.m. CT.
Photo by Jim Dillon