Not only are this weekend’s MTSU soccer matches important in terms of staying on top of the Sun Belt Conference standings, the games will also be played in honor of the battle against breast cancer during Think Pink weekend.
MTSU soccer player Whitney Jorgenson (15) battles against a Troy player during an October 2011 game at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tenn. (Photo courtesy of MTSU Athletics)
The teams plan several events throughout the two-game home stand.
“October is a special month for us, as we recognized those who have had to deal with breast cancer,” MTSU head coach Aston Rhoden said.
“Several of our past and current players have had to deal with this is their families, and recognizing these individuals is a small way for us to honor them,” Rhoden added.
Rhoden said there will be a brief pre-game ceremony in their honor. Literature will also be handed out to fans on how they can help fight the disease.
“As athletes and coaches, we can reach a lot of persons in many different ways and deal with adversity on a daily basis,” he said. “It’s important that we make a concerted effort to support and educate those individuals and their families when they are faced with such adversities.”
Those in attendance this weekend will also have a chance to see the top team in the Sun Belt and its high scoring offense.
The Blue Raiders (11-3, 6-0) are currently ranked No. 1 in the league and on a six-match winning streak after the recent wins at the universities of Louisiana-Monroe and Louisiana-Lafayette.
MTSU has been a roll on its home pitch this season, outscoring its opponents 27-6.
Its only home losses were earlier in the season against two SEC teams, Vanderbilt and Ole Miss.
Rhodes gives most of the credit for the team’s success to the fans.
“Our fans have been awesome and have supported us even during inclement weather,” Rhoden said. “They have been a key factor in our success at home. We love playing in front of our fans and take pride in defending our home field.”
Even more impressive is that the Blue Raiders are currently ranked first in the Sun Belt for attendance, averaging 375 fans per match.
Since conference play started Sept. 21, the Blue Raiders have outscored opponents 18-5, while going 6-0 during that time period.
Part of the reason for the offensive scoring power comes from a powerful foursome, Whitney Jorgenson, Paige Goeglein, Kate Loye and Regina Thomas, all of who rank near the top of several league categories.
Rhoden said he knows the team will need to continue its momentum during the weekend.
“We have to continue to be professional in our approach to games,” Rhoden said. “Thus far, we’ve been able to treat each game as a single elimination game, and as such, work hard for the full 90 minutes. If we can continue this trend we could get some positive results this weekend.”
The weekend started Friday night against the Trojans. Results were unavailable by press time.
Today, the Blue Raiders have a matinee against the Jaguars (7-6-1, 2-2-1).
South Alabama comes into the match after facing Western Kentucky.
The game will most likely feature strong goalkeeper play.
Blue Raiders fans will enjoy watching the dynamic duo of freshman Kelsey Brouwer and senior Jessica Gilchrist.
Heading into this weekend, South Alabama has not given up a goal in two matches. And the Jaguars are hoping to counter with Melissa Drish, who leads the Sun Belt in shutouts and save percentage in only seven matches at goal.
“Both opponents are very strong,” Rhoden said, “but very different in their style of play. South Alabama is a very athletic team and tries to get the ball to their fast forwards quickly. Both teams are very disciplined in the approach to the game, have good work ethic, and have a few special players.”
Kickoff for today’s match against South Alabama is 1 p.m. at the Dean A. Hayes Track and Soccer Stadium.