Brannan's impressive goal in 51st minute provides difference in intense, physical contest
The Eastern Washington University women's soccer team broke a stalemate for first place in the Big Sky Conference standings with a 1-0 win over Sacramento State on Sunday afternoon (Oct. 18). The teams had entered the weekend tied for first, and the win puts Eastern in sole possession of the top spot with a 3-0-1 league mark.
"Today's win puts us one step closer to getting into the (Big Sky) Tournament," head coach George Hageage said. "Now we need to focus on Northern Colorado (EWU's next opponent) and hopefully we will get a win there and then fight the last two games for a regular-season championship."
Whitney Brannan scored the difference maker in today's contest at the 50:04 mark when she took the ball at the right end of the box, sped to the left, beating a defender in the process to create some space before knocking it past the goalkeeper and into the top left corner of the net from 15 yards out. The score was her fifth of the season, tied for the fourth-highest total in school history.
"I challenged Whitney to step up and be a little more selfish," Hageage said. "She did in spurts today. Obviously the goal was perfect, holding the ball, making the cut and being patient, but we still have things (offensively) we need to polish up and, if we do that, we are going to be really dangerous."
The intense, physical game saw neither team have very many scoring opportunities, as the Eagles had four shots on goal today, while Eastern's defense held the Hornets to just two shots on target in the game. Overall, Sacramento State outshot the Eagles, 14-10. Goalkeeper Lisa Dimak posted her third shutout of the season - and third in four games - which ties for the fourth-most in EWU annals.
"Lisa's doing really well," Hageage said. "She has done a great job for us this year.
"I also can't say enough about our back four and with Lauren Jacobsen and Katy Sloyer stepping in today (for injured players Hannah Kreminski and Lyndsey Martin) and doing a great job."
Eastern Washington (6-6-2) also moved its unbeaten streak to six games (4-0-2), the longest in school history. The previous record of four was set in 2004 (Oct. 8-22) and tied in 2005 (Sept. 19-Oct. 2).
The Hornets (7-4-4) had one of their best scoring opportunities in the 12th minute, when Katelin Hopping's shot from 25 yards out went off the cross bar and back into play. Sacramento State was even closer to getting a tally on the scoreboard in the 52nd minute when a hard shot from Kelsey O'Donnell was headed towards the left portion of the net before Sloyer cleared it.
Eastern Washington then escaped a corner kick in the 89th minute and a free kick from 25 yards out with 40 seconds remaining to claim a well-deserved win.
Just past the mid-way point in the league schedule, EWU holds down the top spot with its 3-0-1 mark, followed by Idaho State (3-1), Portland State (2-1-1) and the Hornets (2-1-1).
Today also marked Eastern's Senior Day, as a quartet of Eagles were honored prior to the game: Mandy Cheney, Brittney Doran, Chelsey Hannesson and Morgan O'Friel.
The Eagles now look ahead to hitting the road for the final three games of the regular season. First up is Northern Colorado (4-9-1, 0-4 BSC) at 6 p.m. Pacific Time on Friday (Oct. 23). Eastern Washington then plays Northern Arizona (7-7-1, 2-2 BSC) two days later.