Eastern Washington heads into Big Sky Conference season with dominating win
Brittany Sparks has been on fire offensively for the Eastern Washington University women's soccer team this season and kept it going on Sunday morning (Sept. 27), scoring two more times to move her season total to eight and set the school record. She and the Eagles defeated South Dakota 5-1. The five team goals also tied that school mark, originally set in a 5-0 win over Lamar on Aug. 31, 2007.
The junior has scored in four straight games and, dating to the final two contests of the 2008 season, in eight of Eastern's last 12 contests. She has also scored two goals in a game twice this season, previously doing so in a 4-1 win over McNeese State on Aug. 29. That ties the school record for goals in a game.
Sparks broke the previous single-season school record of seven, set last year by Lauryn Koelzer. In fact, 2009 marks the third straight year that mark has fallen, as Cyeeta Mott had six in 2007 to set the record.
Sparks' eight goals are especially impressive considering EWU has not even started Big Sky Conference play. She is also leading the league in goals per game this year at 0.80. Sparks entered this week 74th among all Division I players, but that placing is likely to rise after scoring three in two games this week.
"Brittany has worked so hard to get to this point (battling back from a knee injury in the spring of 2007)," head coach George Hageage said. "I am really proud of her. It is great to see (the record broken) so early in the season."
The record breaker was a memorable score in and of itself. She sped with the ball 40 yards from goal before racing left to right across the box, beating three defenders and the goalkeeper to create open space in front of her and then slotting the ball home. The historic goal came in the 57th minute.
The Kennewick, Wash., native tied the record in the eighth minute when she battled with the goalkeeper for the ball, got to it first, raced to her right to create space between herself and the USD net minder and shot it into the open net.
Two other Eagles scored their first goals of the season today, Chelsey Hannesson and Melanie Kitsman.
Hannesson's score was the sixth of her career. The senior had a nice give-and-go with Kasey McNeill in the 41st minute. Hannesson crossed it from the right and McNeill received it close to goal and got the ball back to Hannesson, who scored on the right side from just two yards out.
Two days after scoring her first goal, McNeill attained the freshman's first career assist today.
Kitsman scored for the first time in the sophomore's career with an impressive header in the box in the 43rd minute. Earning the assist, courtesy of a well-placed corner kick, was Hannah Kreminski.
Whitney Brannan scored her fourth goal of the campaign in the 90th minute, when she dribbled to the right and smashed it into the upper portion of the net from eight yards. Like Sparks, Brannan is having one of the best offensive seasons in school history. Her four goals tie for the seventh-highest sum.
Scoring South Dakota's lone goal today was Erin Bello, as she tied the score at 1-1 in the 18th minute with an impressive shot over Eastern's goalkeeper from 24 yards out.
The Eagles out-shot USD (2-6-1) by a 33-13 count today. The shot total is the largest of the season, while the shots allowed ties for Eastern's third-lowest of 2009. Eastern Washington also had 14 other scoring opportunities called back due to being offsides.
"I thought we did pretty well creating opportunities to score," Hageage said. "They play a high line and, once we settled down and possessed a bit (more), we had some great individual efforts on our goals."
Many Eagles (3-6-1) were able to see playing time today in EWU's final non-conference game of the season, as 23 Eastern players took part.
The Eagles now take an 11-day break from game competition before opening Big Sky play on Oct. 8 at Weber State. The Wildcats are 4-5 and will play host to Oregon on Saturday (Oct. 3) before welcoming the Eagles in the Big Sky opening contest for both teams.