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Middle Tennessee league's hottest team entering SBC Championships

November 1, 2005 · MT Media Relations
MOBILE, Ala. - Middle Tennessee is hoping the adage, "it's not how you start, but how you finish," holds true as the Sun Belt Conference Soccer Championships get underway this week in Mobile, Ala.

The second-seeded Blue Raiders (12-4-2, 6-1-2) are the league's hottest team entering the championships and bring a seven-match unbeaten streak into their opener against seventh-seeded Troy (4-9-1, 2-5-1) at "The Cage" Wednesday at 4 p.m. Middle Tennessee's unbeaten streak began with a 1-1 tie at Troy and it has reeled off six straight wins since.

"We didn't get off to the best start in conference play with a loss and two ties in our first three matches (all on the road), but even as things were not going as we would have liked at the start you could see improvement," Middle Tennessee fourth-year coach Aston Rhoden said. "We are playing well as a team right now and that has been the key during this stretch; we've been playing good team soccer in all phases and everyone on the team has contributed to our success in one way or another."

Defense has been Middle Tennessee's staple all season with five shutouts and an ability to control the match in the midfield and along the back line; however, the program's strong offense has continued to be a constant. The Blue Raiders' offense, led by forwards Rebecca Rodriguez, Holly Grogan and Rachel Holmes, is No. 14 nationally in scoring offense with 2.67 goals per game.

Rodriguez leads the team with 12 goals and 33 total points, while Grogan has netted 10 goals, including six in the team's previous four matches.

"I think we have been able to get several different players into the scoring act and that has really keyed our offense," Rodriguez said. "We have not been as explosive offensively, at times, but we have capitalized on our chances when it has mattered. We are playing our best soccer of the season down the stretch and this is the time when teams want to be at their best."

Other first-round games Wednesday include No. 1 North Texas (13-3-2, 8-1-0) against No. 8 Louisiana-Lafayette (4-9-3, 2-6-1) at 10 a.m.; No. 4 Denver (8-8-2, 5-3-1) against No. 5 Western Kentucky (6-9-3, 4-4-1) at 1 p.m.; and No. 3 South Alabama (10-4-1, 6-2-0) against No. 6 Florida International (4-7-4, 2-4-1) in the nightcap at 7 p.m.

Semifinal games will take place Thursday at 4 and 7 p.m., with the championship match scheduled for Saturday at 1 p.m. All seven games of the soccer championships will be available live on the Sun Belt website, www.sunbeltsports.org. The championships may be viewed live via web streaming at a cost of $9.95.

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