By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – With the non-conference portion of the 2022 campaign in the rearview mirror, it’s now all systems go when it comes to Ohio Valley Conference play for the Tennessee Tech soccer team. The first of the eight-match league ledger puts the purple and gold in Charleston for a Sunday, Sept. 18 clash at Eastern Illinois. Kickoff at Lakeside Field is set for 1 p.m. CT.
A look at Tennessee Tech
The Golden Eagles (2-4-2) waved goodbye to their non-conference schedule in the club’s last contest with a 1-0 loss to Samford Thursday night at Tech Soccer Field. The Bulldogs, a team receiving votes for the nation’s Top 25, took down TTU with a 69th-minute goal for the tilt’s lone score.
The defeat against the eight-time defending Southern Conference champion capped off a rigorous non-conference campaign for Tech that featured losses against three defending conference champions in the form of Lipscomb (Atlantic Sun), Tennessee (SEC) and aforementioned Samford (Southern) to go along with an undefeated IUPUI squad that is currently sitting at 5-0-3.
Chloe Smith continues to lead the club with three goals to rank third in the OVC, while the Cincinnati, Ohio product’s nine points behind three assists as well are good enough for second in the league. Yao Giada Zhou, who scored the game-winning goal in Tech’s last victory at MTSU for her first score of the season, leads the conference with four assists. Allison Lee, Meredith Nye, Bailey Taylor and Katie Toney have all found the back of the net as well, while Taylor, Emily Carlevato and Taylor Rhodes join Smith and Giada Zhou as Golden Eagles to register assists this season.
Sophomore goalkeeper Maggie Conrad, who secured six stops in Thursday’s narrow loss to Samford, currently sits in fourth in the OVC with 39 saves. The Cedar Rapids, Iowa native has denied 26 attempts in the last four affairs.
The Golden Eagles were picked to finish in third place in the league’s Predicted Order of Finish following a 2021 campaign that saw the purple and gold claim a spot in the OVC Tournament semifinals, the program’s fourth appearance in the last seven seasons.
A look at Eastern Illinois
Unlike Tech, the Panthers (2-2-4) did not play on Thursday, but instead tied a ribbon on their non-conference slate with a Friday 1-0 loss to Western Illinois, the second defeat of the year after falling 2-1 at home to Northern Illinois Sept. 4. EIU’s victories came courtesy of a 3-1 triumph at Illinois State on Sept. 1 and a 2-0 home nod against Purdue Fort Wayne on Aug. 21, while the club’s quartet of draws occurred against Valparaiso, Indiana State, UIC and Central Michigan.
Jenna Little’s three goals pace the Panthers, serving as the only EIU player with more than one goal in 2022. Serra Pizano, Karima Rangel and Zoe Paxton have all split the pipes as well. Amanda Dasilva’s two assists are the most on the club.
Daniele Bermeo has played each and every minute in-net this season and has yielded only five scores, while collecting 33 saves for a .868 save percentage.
Eastern Illinois was selected to finish seventh in the OVC’s Predicted Order of Finish. The Panthers posted a 4-11-2 overall record with a 2-5-1 conference mark.
Inside the series
Sunday’s battle will be the 34th meeting in the all-time series. EIU holds a 19-7-7 advantage in the set, but the Golden Eagles have rattled off three consecutive victories, which includes posting a perfect 2-0 mark in 2021.
Tech bested the Panthers 1-0 in the regular-season gathering behind a Chloe Smith penalty kick goal in double overtime on Oct. 10 in Cookeville, before ending EIU’s season with a 1-0 nod in the first round of the OVC Tournament in Murray, Ky. Gabby Garcia scored the game-winner in the 55th minute to push the purple and gold to the quarterfinals.
Photo by Jim Dillon