By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. Tennessee Tech Athletics continued its recognition of the best and brightest of its more than 300 student athletes by releasing two more winners of the 2021 Golden Wings Awards.
On Wednesday, the Golden Eagle tennis team was named Team of the Year. Also released was the Play of the Year winner, who went to Gabby Garcia for her gold goal in Tech’s overtime win over Eastern Illinois.
It was the tennis team’s fifth time in six years to claim the Team of the Year accolades, sharing the recognition in 2016, 2017 and 2018 and taking the award outright in 2020. The Golden Eagles claimed their eighth OVC title in the regular season in the last 10 full seasons after another conference undefeated in which Tech set a 5-0 record in the league.
After starting the year 0-5, with all five losses to “Power 5” schools, the Golden Eagles finished the regular season with a nine-game winning streak. TTU defeated its opponents 31-5 in conference action. Tech won a total of 10 consecutive games and fell in the OVC Tournament championship game against Belmont after COVID-19 protocols forced purple and gold to compete with just five players. Tech was narrowly flanked by the Bruins, 4-3, despite what looked like insurmountable opportunities.
In the club’s first home game since October 25, 2019, the Golden Eagle football team gave their fans more than their fair share of drama as Garcia scored four minutes into extra time to help Tech to a 1-0 win over Eastern Illinois. Push. The freshman poked the game winner over the Panther goalkeeper’s outstretched hands from 20 yards to deliver the thrilling victory.
Garcia’s first career goal brought Purple and Gold to a 3-0-0 start, the first time since 2015 that Tech started OVC play with three straight wins and the first time since 2004 that TTU has started a season 3-0-0. The Golden Eagles won all three games by 1-0 margins and became the first purple and gold team in program history to start a season with three consecutive shutouts.
Entering its sixth year, the Golden Wings Awards is a year-end awards ceremony for Tennessee Tech University student-athletes to honor and celebrate their academic and athletic achievements over the past full seasons. With the cancellation of last year’s spring seasons due to COVID-19, this year’s award schedule became simpler than in the past when multiple years were used to allow for a more complete and fair field of choice. This year, all prizes were chosen from the achievements of the 2020-21 athletics year.
Previously, nominees for baseball, softball, outdoor athletics, men’s golf, women’s golf, and tennis were selected from the previous league year to allow for a more complete campaign from which nominees could be collected. The annual awards ceremony was officially canceled for a second year due to complications with scheduling and COVID-19 protocols. As with the 2020 awards, the choice was made to honor the student-athletes for their achievements in one of the most unique sporting years in history.
Prior to the first Golden Wings Awards show, Tennessee Tech Athletics presented four awards annually to deserving student athletes, including Male Athlete of the Year, Female Athlete of the Year, Man of the Year and Woman of the Year. The first award for the 1990-91 academic year was the Woman of the Year Award, which coincided with the first NCAA Woman of the Year Award. Two years later, in 1992-93, Tech established its Man of the Year Award. Both the Male Athlete of the Year and Female Athlete of the Year were added for the 1993-94 academic year. The four awards are officially included in the Golden Wings Awards, including criteria, for the 2016-17 academic year.
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