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MARTIN, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin soccer squad is set to take on the No. 7 seed SIUE Cougars in the first round of the Ohio Valley Conference Soccer Championships in Richmond, Ky. on Friday, Oct. 27 with first touch slated for 1 p.m.
The No. 6 seed Skyhawks (6-10-3, 4-5-1 OVC) head into the OVC Championships winning two of their last three matchups, with their only loss in that span being the regular-season finale at Tennessee Tech. In order to advance, UT Martin will need to duplicate its last matchup against the Cougars as the Skyhawks were able to find a clutch goal from freshman Alice Adams to produce the 3-2 overtime victory back on Oct. 13.
UT Martin’s matchup against SIUE is one of two first round matches in the tournament. The winner between the Skyhawks and Cougars will play site host No. 3 seed Eastern Kentucky on Sunday, Oct. 29 in the quarterfinals. Next weekend, play will be hosted by No. 1 seed Murray State for semifinal and championship play.
UT Martin is led by Danae Kaldaridou (seven goals, four assists) and Katelyn Colvin (three goals, eight assists). Amy McGivern (four goals, two assists) paces the Skyhawks in shots as she has put up a total of 68 on the season with a program-high of 14 coming against Chattanooga on Sept. 1. Adams (four goals, one assist) has also provided valuable minutes on the field this season.
Goalkeeper Erica Myers (82 saves, 1.63 GAA) has played a total of 1,658:01 between the posts and put together a pair of shutouts over the course of her freshman campaign.
“We are delighted to be in the tournament,” UT Martin head coach Phil McNamara said. “We have been building up the tournament all year to the girls. We knew with the major injuries we had along the way that the challenge for the regular season title was going to be difficult. However, we felt that when we got those players back that we had a squad that could match up with anyone. We are going into the tournament with a lot of enthusiasm and excitement.
UT Martin found itself in 11 one-goal margin endings (five wins, six losses) as well as three draws on the season. “The challenge for the tournament is for us to go be the best team we can,” McNamara said. “If we look at the teams that finished above us, we lost three of those matches by one goal and two of those matches were on the road. Looking at the league, I feel that it is the closest it has been in some time with so many ties. I feel that every coach in the league would be honest by saying that there are five or six teams who are capable of winning the tournament and I feel that we are one of those teams. Being at a neutral site on Friday there is no advantage for anyone. We have a strong opponent in SIUE, who is typically a good tournament team. It will be difficult but it is a match we are looking forward to and we are hoping to play our best soccer in the tournament.”
After missing out on the OVC Tournament last season, McNamara is ready to add to the winning history of Skyhawk soccer and improve on his already impressive resume. “This group deserves a lot of credit,” McNamara said. “We have gone from a difficult year to a very respectable year which is a very strong turnaround in a short period of time. It is good to know that if the tournament had been in the same format as years past that we would still be in. Now we have to take the next step and prove we are good enough to compete for the tournament title similar to past UTM teams. We have a fantastic challenge in front of us, now it’s time to play.”
McNamara feels that his squad is well rested given the past month’s schedule. “We are as healthy as day one of the preseason and everyone is available and ready to play. I don’t think we could be in a better situation. With the last five matches, I feel like we competed really well, going on a run of being undefeated in three games (two wins and a tie) and two one-goal matches being the difference in those losses in that span. We are right there where we want to be and we are excited about the tournament.”
SIUE (6-9-2, 4-5-1) has earned the No. 7 seed in the OVC Championships and is led by MacKenzie Litzsinger (four goals, one assist), Caroline Hoefert (four goals, one assist) and Emily Grahl (one goal, five assists). Goalkeeper Juli Rossi (77 saves, 1.41 GAA) has seen the bulk of the time between the posts for 10th year head coach Derek Burton who guided the Cougars to a historic season last year.
Every match of the OVC Soccer Championships will be streamed live, free of charge on the OVC Digital Network. Live stats for the match will also be available at the links above.