VIDEO: Simon Duffy Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, TENN. – A match of high importance in the fight for the top of the South Atlantic Conference table draws close as the Carson-Newman Eagles will travel to Salisbury, N.C. to face the Catawba College Catawba Indians on Saturday.
"They're (Catawba) good from back to front," Eagles head coach Simon Duffy said. "They're going to pose a massive threat... I'm sure they're looking at this fixture as well thinking that it's a massive game, massive win for them, so we need to make sure that we understand the importance of this game."
If C-N is able to defeat Catawba (9-2-1, 5-1-1 SAC), the Eagles (9-4, 6-1 SAC) would continue to control their own destiny as the only team in the SAC with one conference loss. A win Saturday would also secure home-field advantage for the quarterfinals of the SAC tournament, clinching a finish no worse than fourth in the overall standings.
A lot of recent history has been made by C-N at the expense of Catawba. Last year saw these two sides battles a total of three times in the span of 13 days, resulting in three victories for the Eagles.
To close out the regular season on Oct. 27, 2018, the Catawba Indians traveled to Mossy Creek where the match would go to double overtime deadlocked at 1-1 before Holly Talbut-Smith scored in the 101st minute. In the run back match in the semifinals of the SAC tournament on Nov. 2, 2018, it was Magda Mosengo who would score a brace to propel the Eagles past Catawba 2-1.
In the final matchup between the two sides in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Southeast Regional on Nov. 10, 2018, three graduates in Catarina Realista, Kennedy Rankin and Mosengo combined for three goals to send the Catawba Indians home packing.
All three matches were bouts between the two teams were "fantastic games in good spirit" according to Duffy. However, the head coach knows that payback from Catawba could be on the forefront of the opposition's minds come Saturday.
"I'm sure they're not going to forget the games we played against them last year," Duffy said. "We just need to make sure that everything we do tomorrow is geared towards going out, winning the game and one step closer to hopefully clinching another conference title."
The Catawba Indians are riding a four-game winning streak dating back to Oct. 5 into this match, including a 4-3 win over Lenoir-Rhyne, a team that C-N lost to by a 3-0 margin on Oct. 2 at Mossy Creek. Conversely, Catawba's one loss in SAC play comes to Queens, who C-N defeated 3-1 on Oct. 5.
Similar to the Eagles on the offensive attack, the Catawba Indians have two players over 10 points in junior forward Maddie Capel and sophomore midfielder Jovana Sanchez. In the scoring race, three players, Capel, Courtney Reavis and Shelby Vasich, are tied for the team lead in goals with four. For C-N, junior defense Kristina Markfort (Munster, Germany) and junior forward Emilee Futrell (Wilson, N.C.) are the only members of the double-digit point club thus far on the campaign.
In the most recent week of honors awarded Oct. 22, Catawba swept the SAC Player of the Week accolades, with Vasich earning SAC Offensive Player of the Week and goalie Shelby Thompson earning SAC Defensive Player of the Week.
With multiple threats to score, Duffy knows that limiting the offensive threats from Catawba comes with having a "high energy" game.
"We need to come out from the get-go and start how we mean to go on (throughout the game)," Duffy said. "A 90-minute performance, take our chances when we can and try and limit them as far as shots, looks on goal and hopefully we can come away with a win."
C-N is 17-19-4 against Catawba in the all-time series, but is 5-0-0 in the past five meets.
Saturday will conclude a three-week road trip that has seen the Eagles travel an approximate total of 1,805 miles including trips to both Carolinas. C-N is 3-1 on the trek thus far, including wins against Mars Hill, Coker and Limestone. The distance to a major city traversed on this road swing is closest to the distance from Mossy Creek to Phoenix, Ariz. (1,841 miles).
Opening kick from Frock Athletic Complex in Salisbury, N.C. is set for 5:30 p.m.