By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information
TROY, Ala. – In a match that featured a nearly 90-minute lightning delay, the Tennessee Tech soccer team used a fast start to help pave the way to a 2-2 draw in the season opener with South Alabama in the first match of the Trojan Classic.
The Golden Eagles (0-0-1) raced out to a rapid beginning behind two goals within the tilt's first 20 minutes and change, but the Jaguars (0-0-1) bounced back with two scores of their own late in the first half to knot the tilt at 2-2 heading into the break. With both offenses seemingly clicking behind four combined goals in the first 45 minutes, Mother Nature helped slow things down with the lengthy delay just before the start of the second half.
"Really it was a weird start for two teams playing their first game of the regular season," Tech head coach Steve Springthorpe said. "I was happy with the way we came out tonight and thought we did a great job dictating the play in the first 20 minutes or so. We found two goals and did a number of positive things offensively."
"Credit goes to South Alabama though," Springthorpe continued. "After the first 20 minutes they just sort of buckled down and they put more pressure on us in the last 20-25 minutes of the half. Some of our youth showed during that stretch, but after the lightning delay I thought we did a great job of becoming more organized and a lot of credit goes to our players with their ability to mature and learn from some of their mistakes. They figured things out in terms of expectations, playing in their roles and just overall keeping things simple."
Playing in her first career match, freshman Bailey Taylor split the pipes just over three minutes into the season, scoring off a pass from sophomore Cassidy Bereda to give Tech the early 1-0 edge. Bereda, who started 12 games in her rookie season a year ago, collected her second career assist on the play.
TTU padded its lead a mere 17 minutes later thanks to a Kendall Powell goal in the 21st minute. The junior out of Cookeville, who paced the Golden Eagles with seven scores last year, wasted no time in securing her first net-finder of 2019 with a lengthy strike that snuck just inside the far post to push the Tech advantage to 2-0.
The Jaguars responded to the pair of quick Golden Eagle goals with two scores of their own to square the match late in the first half. Brenna McPartlan, the 2018 Sun Belt Freshman of the Year who led the club with five goals last season, put South Alabama on the board with a penalty-kick goal in the 34th minute to cut the deficit in half.
Briana Morris provided the equalizer less than 10 minutes later with a goal in the 42nd minute to square the contest at 2-2. Chloe McGlade was credited with an assist on the game-tying score.
The Golden Eagles made the most of their opportunities with seven shots on-goal out of nine total shots in the match. Bailey Taylor led the charge with three shots, all of which were on-goal, while Kendall Powell and Cassidy Bereda notched two shots each. Freshmen Kendall Webb and Emily Carlevato each tallied one attempt.
The Jaguars posted 16 shots, eight of which were on-goal. Briana Morris paced the way with four tries, two of which were on-point.
In her first collegiate start, red-shirt junior Isabelle Austin recorded six saves in goal, keeping the Jaguars scoreless after intermission. The Sylvania, Ohio product collected four of her six halts in the second stanza. Across the way, Justice Stanford secured five stops.
"Izzie played great tonight," Springthorpe said. "She snagged everything that came her way in the second half and did everything we asked of her. I liked her aggressiveness throughout the match. The defense as a whole stepped up and really matured over the game's final 45-65 minutes."
15 Golden Eagles appeared in the affair, including four freshmen (Taylor, Webb, Carlevato, Meg Ivey) who made their collegiate debuts. Senior Tina Marolt, who played in only five matches last year after suffering a season-ending injury, played in all 110 minutes. Kendall Powell, Bailey Taylor, Ashley Grimes and Isabelle Austin also played the duration of the match.
"Anytime you are playing a hard fought game like the one tonight, it really is a team effort," Springthorpe said. "There are 20 players that were out there tonight and even though everyone didn't get in the match, our whole group was extremely supportive of one another. The bench brought great energy on the sideline tonight. We would've liked to come out with a win, but anytime you get a result in the first game of the season, that's certainly positive and something we can build off of. I'm happy with the way our team played tonight."
TTU will conclude the Trojan Classic with a Sunday battle against the host Troy. First kick is slated for 2 p.m. CT.
Photo by Thomas Corhern