Eagles Open Season at Home

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EWU will play three times at home before Labor Day, has six home games by Sept. 30

The Eastern Washington University women’s soccer team kicks off its 2009 campaign with a home game on Saturday (Aug. 29). First kick will take place at 4 p.m., as McNeese State will pay a visit to the EWU campus.

The Eagles then take a road trip across the state to play Seattle University in the Emerald City at 4 p.m. on Monday (Aug. 31).

McNeese State got its season off to a start on Friday (Aug. 21), when the team played to a 1-1 double-overtime tie with Louisiana. A year ago, the Cowgirls went 12-7-1.

Seattle University is off to a hot start in 2009, having won both its initial two outings of the campaign. The Redhawks beat Boise State and Idaho by identical 1-0 scores on Friday and Sunday (Aug. 23), both contests being played at home. Seattle went 12-5-3 in 2008.

The Eagles are looking to bounce back from a down 2008 campaign, which saw the team go 4-11-3. Eastern will have a chance for early home cooking, however, playing 9-of-14 games at home to start the 2009 season.

In the Big Sky Coaches Preseason Poll, Weber State was selected first and were followed, in order, by Northern Arizona, Sacramento State, Montana, Portland State, Northern Colorado, Idaho State and Eastern Washington.

Eagles to Prey on Competition in 2009
With a number of returning All-Big Sky Conference honorees, the 2009 Eastern Washington University women’s soccer team looks to re-establish itself at the Big Sky Championship after a three-year hiatus with a breakout season.

In 2009, the Eagles will consist of players who have earned a total of four appointments to the All-Big Sky second team and have attained two sets of honorable mention accolades.

In total, the Eagles bring back a total of 11-of-17 letterwinners and 8-of-11 starters from last year’s squad.

That team will be looking to continue the momentum it gained at the end of the 2008 campaign when the team finished off the season with consecutive victories.

After struggling through much 2008, albeit having some impressive high points such as a 2-1 road win over South Dakota State, a team that would advance to the second round of the NCAA Championship, Eastern Washington put together a pair of impressive outings to cap the season.

After eliminating Northern Colorado from postseason consideration, the Eagles nearly repeated the feat with a dramatic 3-2 overtime win over Montana in the final game of the season.

The team is looking to carry over that energy into, and throughout, 2009.

“I am excited about the upcoming season,” head coach George Hageage said. “With so many freshmen last year, it took a little time for us to gel. While I know that we will rely on some freshmen this year, we will also have a strong returning core of players.”

Forwards
The Eagles have four returning letterwinners at the forward position in Brittany Sparks, Lacey Schreiner, Kirsten Fausko and Whitney Brannan.

Sparks had the best overall season of this group a year ago and earned All-Big Sky honorable mention accolades for her efforts. Meanwhile, Brannan had the best timing, scoring in overtime to defeat Montana in the final game of the season. Fausko and Schreiner also played well and are expected to contribute significantly to the Eagles this coming year.

“I am excited to get Sparky and Whit back,” Hageage said. “Towards the end of last fall, they both began to play with a sense of urgency and attacked the box. I look for them to lead the way this year with Lacey and Kirsten pitching in.

“Newcomers Lauren Conley, Kasey McNeill and Melissa von der Hofen have also shown they can score goals.”

Midfielders
A trio of letterwinners returns for Eastern in the midfield, including a pair of seniors in Morgan O’Friel and Brittney Doran who had to sit out the 2008 season due to injury and are eager to get back onto the playing field. As a junior, Doran earned All-Big Sky second team honors, while O’Friel had a clutch season, scoring two game-winning goals to tie the school record.

Also returning to the Eagles in 2009 is another four-year Eagle in Mandy Cheney, who played primarily as a defender a year ago but will be transitioning to the midfield in 2009.

“I am extremely excited to have both Morgan and Brittney back in the middle after they sat out last fall with injuries,” Hageage said. “We missed their toughness and experience and I am looking forward to watching them team up with Mandy as well as with returners Kirsten Fausko, Lacey Schreiner and Melanie Kitsman and newcomers Lauren Jacobsen and Danielle Jones.”

Defenders
In the back will be four letterwinners, including four-year players Chelsey Hannesson, who earned All-Big Sky honorable mention accolades in 2007 and followed that up with second team honors a year ago.

Sophomore Sara Byrne had an outstanding initial campaign with the Eagles, as she was second team All-Big Sky. Lyndsey Martin also played at a high level as a freshman, as she attained honorable mention accolades. Also playing well and earning a letter her first season in an Eagle uniform was Hannah Kreminski.

Each of those players helped the team keep seven opponents to just a goal or fewer last year. That group also helped Eastern Washington to a pair of shutouts in 2008, against Idaho and Northern Colorado, both by 1-0 scores.

“Our starting four backs are returning, each with a year of experience under her belt,” Hageage said. “Entering last year, only Chelsey had started in a regular-season game, so I am expecting Sara, Lyndsey and Hannah to feel more comfortable with each other this year.

“After adding returner Katy Sloyer and newcomer Tess Locke, we will have a good core of defenders to choose from this year.”

Goalkeepers
The Eagles will be looking to a newcomer to step into the goalkeeping role in 2009 with Lisa Dimak holding the early advantage in the battle for the starting role in that position going into the season. However, Jamie Walker and Jackie Gillis are expected to battle for the starting position, as well.

“(Assistant coach) Tamara (Hageage) has done an excellent job bringing in a number of goalkeepers who can add depth to the position,” Hageage said. “Lisa has impressed this spring, and we are hoping that Jamie will come in and challenge for the position, as well. Jackie will also add some depth to a position that is wide open.”

Schedule
Eastern Washington will open its 2009 season with three home games within its first four contests. A visit from McNeese State kicks off the campaign on Aug. 29. The final game of that stretch will see Gonzaga pay a visit. Last year the rivals played an exciting double-overtime affair that saw the Bulldogs come out on top at home – the Eagles are looking to return the favor in Cheney on Sept. 6.

Later in the season, from Sept. 25-Oct. 18, the Eagles will have another extensive stretch spent mostly at home, with 5-of-6 contests taking place in Cheney. The final three games of that stretch will be EWU’s three home league contests of 2009, versus Idaho State, Portland State and Sacramento State.

The Eagles then close out the season with three straight road games, including an Oct. 25 tilt with defending Big Sky champion and NCAA Tournament participant Northern Arizona. The Eagles then are planning to be one of the four league schools that will advance to the Big Sky Tournament in early November.

“We took a small step back last year, but it was one of our best coaching jobs since coming here in 2000, as 20 freshmen, a new staff member and two seniors who were forced to redshirt (due to injuries) really challenged the team to overcome a number of obstacles and finish in sixth place (in the Big Sky), Hageage said.

“This year, we have new obstacles that stand in our way. We start a week later than the rest of the conference, and we play three games on the road in the conference at altitude (Weber State, Northern Colorado and Northern Arizona, each of which is located at least 4,300 feet above sea level).

“However, with the players we have this fall, we are in a much better position to handle these obstacles and make a run at the Big Sky Tournament.”

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