Although the loss to the University of Tennessee at Martin in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament ended the Golden Eagles’ soccer season, the program took a successful step forward this year.The sixth-seeded Golden Eagles fought hard against the third-seeded Skyhawks, but the team’s season came to an end on Tuesday. UT-Martin scored two goals in the first half and held a commanding lead at the break.
The Golden Eagles cut the Skyhawk lead during the second half when Ashley Smith scored her seventh goal of the season in the 69th minute.
Despite a frantic effort in the waning minutes, the Golden Eagles lost 2-1.
“This is not an end,” Head Coach Becky Fletcher said. “This is the beginning for this program.”
Fletcher inherited a team of players recruited by previous coaches. She guided the Golden Eagles to their first OVC tournament apperance in five years, and in doing so, delivered a positive first season for the team and their supporters.
Beginning next year, Fletcher will begin to add to the team even more with players she recruits.
“It was a nice achievement because they (the seniors) worked hard all year,” said first-year Assistant Coach Chris Walker.
“We would have never made it without them. They set the bar higher for the team. They will be remembered as the group that made it to the OVC tournament.”
In addition, Walker said that this tournament should wet the appetite of the underclassmen. She wants to continue a tradition of success at Tennessee Tech.
Fletcher’s experience at Auburn bodes well for success with the Golden Eagles.
While an assistant coach at Auburn, Fletcher helped preside over the most-winning era in Auburn women’s soccer history.
During her tenure as an assistant coach, the Tigers won three SEC Western Division titles and went to the NCAA tournament four times.
Her emphasis on a strong defense is already reaping rewards at Tech.
Freshman Kaitlyn Thacker was named OVC Goalkeeper of the Week for her performance against Lipscomb University.
The Golden Eagles will spend their time in the spring preparing for another run to the OVC tournament next year.
Many players will be returning, hoping to repeat their success from this past season.