Panthers riding confident wave into weekend matches


Jason Howell

Sophomore forward Gabby Charles fights with senior Frankie Carbajal during a match on Sunday at Lakeside Field. The Panthers beat the Governors 3-1 to improve to 1-3-0 in the OVC and 2-10-1 overall.

Dominic Renzetti, Assistant Sports Editor

An important Ohio Valley Conference matchup looms at 3 p.m. Friday in Cookeville, Tenn., for two teams trying to remain in the hunt for a spot in the conference tournament.

Eastern, 1-3, has three points in the OVC standings, and will take on Tennessee Tech, 0-4, which has not won a conference match since Sept. 27, 2013.

The Panthers, who are coming off a 3-1 victory over Austin Peay last Sunday, have won each of the last three meetings with Tennessee Tech. Eastern has beaten Tennessee Tech 16 times in the two team’s all-time history – the most wins Eastern has against any OVC team.

Senior Meagan Radloff, who earned OVC Player of the Week honors for her three goals against Belmont and Austin Peay, scored two goals against Tennessee Tech last season on what was coincidentally her 21st birthday. Radloff, who leads the team in points, said things are finally starting to fall into place for her scoring-wise. Radloff scored seven goals last season, all against OVC opponents.

Eastern head coach Jason Cherry said Sunday’s win over Austin Peay gave the team a lot of confidence going forward.

“Last year, based off the results of the team’s we’ve played, we would have been 1-3 against them and we’re 1-3,” he said. “It puts them in a spot where they feel confident that we can still fight to win this conference. So that’s a big thing.”

Senior Madison Carter was even more confident and said this is a team that can win the OVC.

“We’re coming off of a win now, we’re ready to go for [this] weekend,” she said. “It’s going to come through, we’re going to win this tournament.”

Tennessee Tech has a different look this season, with a new head coach in former Duke assistant Steve Springthorpe. The Golden Eagles’ former head coach, Daniel Brizard stepped down at the end of last season after four years with the team. In his four years, Brizard was 17-52-4.

Springthorpe now leads the struggling Tennessee Tech team in what will be its first home match in more than a month.

“We are definitely happy to be home,” Springthorpe said, in a press release. “It’s been a long four weeks and I know our players are looking forward to being here on Friday. There’s an excitement from them and then certainly for us as a coaching staff to have a home-field advantage will hopefully help us.”

The Golden Eagles have not won a home OVC match since Sept. 28, 2012, against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville.

Along with a new coach, the Golden Eagles have had to fill a number of spots on the field with new players. Jordan Brown, who was No. 4 in the nation last season in saves, transferred to the University of Houston in the spring. The Golden Eagles also lost senior defender Leigh Heffner, the program’s all-time leader in minutes, as well as last year’s leading scorer Ellie Iaciofano.

As a team, the Golden Eagles have scored just six goals in 13 matches. Junior Taylor Blazei, sophomore Abi Gearing and senior Katie Phillips each have two goals.

Senior Rebecca Toler has started the majority of matches in goal, maintain a goals-against average of 3.23 per match.

The Panthers continue their road trip Sunday with a 1 p.m. matchup against Jacksonville State.

Jacksonville State is an even 2-2 in the OVC, coming off a 2-1 win over Eastern Kentucky last Sunday. After being down 1-0 at half, the Gamecocks scored two unanswered goals in the second half to seal the win.

The Panthers beat Jacksonville State last season 2-1, with Radloff and red-shirt junior Chris Reed both scoring.

Red-shirt junior Courtney Hurt leads the Gamecocks with eight goals already this season, scoring the match-winner in the 69th minute off a penalty kick last Sunday against Eastern Kentucky.

Sophomore goalkeeper Meara Johnson has seen the majority of minutes in goal for the Gamecocks this season. The Mississippi State transfer represented Jamaica at the 2012 CONCACAF tournament and was selected to attend Canada’s National Training Centre in 2011 and 2012.


Dominic Renzetti can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].