By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Behind a slew of stellar saves, Kari Naerdemann helped push the Tennessee Tech soccer team to a scoreless draw with Southeast Missouri Friday night at Tech Soccer Field.
The Golden Eagles (6-6-1, 2-3-1 OVC) checked the tie column for the first time this year, while keeping their conference unbeaten streak at home alive in the process. Tech is now 13-0-2 in the last 15 OVC clashes in Cookeville, a stretch dating back to the 2015 season
Naerdemann secured seven stops in preserving her fifth clean sheet of the season and 33rd of her Tech tenure to extend an already OVC record for career shutouts. The Herne, Germany native's seven halts tied for the third most all season, and with a campaign-best 10 Tuesday against Belmont, Naerdemann now has 17 halts in her last two matches.
"She came up big tonight," TTU head coach Steve Springthopre said, in regards to his senior goalkeeper. "I think she has played really well the last couple of weeks. Kari was great the other day in our win vs. Belmont and tonight she was the same. I thought she was very mature and showed a lot of leadership in the back. She did well with her distribution and made a number of key saves when we needed it. She played Kari-esque tonight."
Among the seven stops for Naerdemann, none proved to be larger than a denial less than a minute into overtime. 50 seconds into the extra frame, SEMO junior Katie Lever found space in the box before smoking one that saw Naerdemann climb the ladder and just poke it above the crossbar to keep the match preserved. The Redhawks (3-7-2, 1-3-2 OVC) would then be kept at bay in a pair of subsequent corners over the next three and a half minutes.
In the 97th minute, the scene shifted to the other end of the pitch where Kendall Powell came within inches of playing the role of hero. After just entering the box from the right side, the Cookeville product fired one that appeared destined to sneak under the crossbar, but SEMO freshman Bailey Redden was able to leap and pop the ball over the bar to keep the scoreless deadlock intact.
Minutes later Powell found herself in close and let loose on a try in the 98th minute that was once again halted by a diving Redden.
Overall, the SEMO goalkeeper had five saves for her second career shutout.
"It was a tough battle out there with two teams fighting for points to be in the top eight in the conference," Springthorpe said. "SEMO came in very motivated. I thought they played well and caused us some issues during the course of the game. Maybe we were fortunate in some instances, but at the same time I thought we had some good opportunities in the second half and overtime. It was just a hard-fought game with two teams that needed a win."
The Redhawks outpaced Tech in shots with a 20-11 cushion. TTU did manage to lead the overtime charge with a 4-3 shot edge. Powell and senior Molly Kafader each collected a club-best three shots.
SEMO's Esmie Gonzales recorded a match-high seven tries, two of which were on-goal including an attempt in the 20th minute that looked destined to split the pipes. After a Lexi Grote shot from deep was clipped by a leaping Naerdemann and into the crossbar, the rebound fell to the shoe tops of Gonzales. The Fort Worth, Texas native kept it low and went far side, but thanks to a sprawling Naerdemann display, Gonzales could not find the back of the net.
"Anytime you can get a shutout in conference play, it's great," Springthorpe said. "I think our defense broke down every once in a while, but the effort was there, and the desire to keep a goal from going into the back of the net was certainly there. I thought we bended at times, but didn't break. It's unfortunate that we couldn't find the back of the net, but their keeper did make some great saves. Overall I'm happy with tonight."
Tech will hit the road for the final time in the regular season with a pair of weekend matches. The Golden Eagles will flock to Morehead State on Friday, Oct. 12 for a 5 p.m. CT battle with the Eagles before heading to Eastern Kentucky for a 12 p.m. CT matchup with the Colonels on Sunday, Oct. 14.
Photo by Thomas Corhern