Photo by Joi Williams / MTSU Sidelines
On Sunday afternoon, the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (1-4) faced off against the University of Illinois-Chicago Flames (2-6) in a non-conference matchup. A tough battle throughout the first half of the match, the Blue Raiders broke through for two second half-goals and held on for their first win of the season.
Not only was it the team’s first win of the season, but it marked head coach Aston Rhoden’s 200th career victory as a head coach.
Both teams started fast by trading chances early in the first half but were unable to find the back of the net. The first real scoring opportunity came from Blue Raider freshman forward Elizabeth Watts, who missed a breakaway scoring chance that would have put MTSU up 1-0 around the middle of the first half.
MTSU freshman forward Peyton DePriest then missed a wide-open shot that sailed wide right of the goal. A mere four minutes later, another shot by DePriest gave Middle its best chance to score, but her shot banged off of the cross-bar.
Though each team had chances, neither found the back of the net and went into the halftime locker room tied at zero.
At the 65th minute in the match, Amber Hoot advanced the ball up to DePriest, who slipped past the UIC defense and found the back of the net for the third time this year to give the Blue Raiders a 1-0 lead.
UIC had a chance to knot things up later in the half, but a free kick just inside the box missed wide right for the Flames.
Minutes later, Casey Riemer found a quarantined Sam DeBien for a header that put the game on ice at the 86th minute. The Middle Tennessee defense held the rest of the way and when the horn sounded, the Blue Raiders had their first victory of the season by a final score of 2-0.
After going into the half with neither team on the board, the Blue Raiders emphasized spreading the field out and getting one-on-one matchups near the goal.
“At halftime, we talked about stretching the field … we wanted to isolate players on the weak side,” Rhoden said after the game. “That was kind of how we scored that second goal, off a great cross from Casey (Riemer) and Sam (DeBien) had a great finish.”
While this win was a monumental one for his career, Rhoden had no idea of the achievement until after the game.
“I’m not sure how much it means because I really didn’t know it,” Rhoden said of his 200th win. “My focus is getting this team back on track. Any personal accolades can wait until the end of the season.”
The Blue Raiders will host Kennesaw State at Dean A. Hayes Track and Soccer Stadium on Friday, September 15, with a start time at 7 p.m.
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