Eagles Prepare for Battle with Big Sky Foes Idaho State and Weber State
Eastern hopes to use home field advantage to earn first conference victory of 2010 season
After a challenging weekend on the road, the Eastern Washington University soccer team will return to Cheney, Wash., for a pair of conference matches against Idaho State and Weber State. Eastern will face the Bengals on Friday (Oct. 15) at 4 p.m., followed by a showdown with the Wildcats on Sunday (Oct. 17) at noon.
The Eagles dropped their first two league games at Portland State and Sacramento State after the team was forced to make a few alterations to its lineup due to some unfortunate incidents of illness and injury. Eastern fell to the Vikings 3-0, while the Hornets topped the Red and White with a 1-0 decision.
"In our last two games, we really struggled to create scoring opportunities," said EWU head coach George Hageage. "As we prepare for our next conference matchups, we really need to focus on how we can improve in that area. We have seen all these teams before and are familiar with their style of play, so we just need to pay close attention to what we are doing and figure out a way to get the ball from the middle third to the attacking third."
Eastern hopes to execute its offensive objectives when it plays at home for the first time since Sept. 26. Friday's game against Idaho State will mark the 15th meeting between the two programs. ISU leads the all-time series at 9-4-1, but two of those four wins on Eastern's record have come in the last three years, while the tie occurred in 2008. Last year, the Eagles beat ISU by a score of 1-0 during the regular season, but then fell to the Bengals in the semifinals of the Big Sky Conference tournament. Prior to that win, ISU had not defeated Eastern since the 2006 season.
The Bengals will come to Cheney with an overall record of 5-7-2 and 0-1-1 mark in league play. In its first matchup of the BSC season, ISU battled Big Sky preseason-favorite Northern Arizona to a scoreless tie in a game was cut short due to inclement weather. The Bengals then dropped a 3-1 decision to Northern Colorado, which saw the Bears record their first goals in program history at Davis Field in Pocatello, Idaho. On Friday, the Eagles will have to look out for ISU sophomore Rachel Strawn and freshman Kiley Godfrey, as the two lead the Bengals with eight points apiece. Strawn has recorded three goals and two assists, while Godfrey has notched two goals and four assists in the 2010 season.
Eastern will play its second conference game of the weekend when Weber State pays a visit to Cheney on Sunday (Oct. 17). Much like the Eagles, the Wildcats have struggled to date, as their overall record stands at 1-12-1. WSU opened its 2010 conference season at home versus the same opponents as Idaho State. The Wildcats tied with Northern Colorado after two overtime periods, while the Lumberjacks of NAU shut-out Weber State by a score of 2-0.
The all-time series between the Eagles and Wildcats stands at 3-11-0, in favor of WSU. However, the most recent meeting on Oct. 8, 2009 was one of the most memorable in Eagle soccer history. Eastern upset the Wildcats on their home field, which marked the first victory ever for EWU in Ogden, Utah. Eastern junior Lauren Jacobsen scored the dramatic goal in just the sixth minute of the contest, which the Eagles successfully defended for the remaining 84 minutes. Prior to 2009, the two games played during the 2007 and 2008 seasons both went into overtime. WSU ended up with the advantage in both contests, but not before Eastern gave them a run for their money, which they hope to do again on Sunday.
"I would be very surprised if you didn't see an extremely competitive effort from our girls," said Hageage. "They will definitely get after it. One of the reasons I like this team, and why I have liked them from the beginning, is because they are feisty. Even when things aren't going well, they are still fighting. I know they are excited for the games this weekend. When you're back is against the wall and you have limited chances to make up ground, how can you not get pumped for conference home game?"
Eagle News & Notes
Record-Setting Sparks - Senior Brittany Sparks scored her first goal of the 2010 season against Gonzaga on Oct. 3. With that tally, the senior became the all-time leading goal scorer in Eastern Washington history with 15 career goals. Prior to the game on Oct. 3, the Kennewick, Wash., native was tied with former Eagle, Cyeeta Mott, for the school record at 14, but she nabbed the title outright with her tally in the third minute of the contest. She also became the all-time leading point earner at Eastern, as she has now compiled 36 total points in her career (15 goals, 6 assists). In addition to owning two career records, Sparks is the school record-holder for single-season goals (11), points (22) and game winners (3), all of which she achieved during her stellar junior campaign.
Walker Grabs Double-Digit Saves in Back-to-Back Games - EWU goalkeeper Jamie Walker had had 10 or more saves in two of Eastern's last three games. Her first double-digit performance of the season came against Gonzaga (Oct. 3), when she picked up ten total saves. The Bulldogs fired 19 total shots in the second half of the game, but did not convert a single one thanks to the relentless defense exhibited by Walker. In Eastern's most recent outing against Big Sky Conference foe Sacramento State, Walker set a career-record with 11 saves in her 90 minutes of play. The Graham, Wash., native has been between the pipes for 679:10 minutes this season, collecting 71 total saves, which ties for first in the conference. She averages 5.92 saves per game, which is third in the BSC.
Brannan Tabbed as Big Sky Player of the Week - Whitney Brannan was recognized as the Big Sky Offensive Player of the Week (Sept. 21) for her stellar performances in South Dakota on Sept. 17 and 19. Brannan scored four goals over the weekend, which included her first-career hat trick against South Dakota State on Sept. 19. With her three-goal performance in Brookings, S.D., Brannan broke the EWU single-game scoring record of two, which had been achieved 11 times in history, one of which was by Brannan last season. Although the Eagles fell in double-overtime in the match against SDSU., Brannan's goals kept EWU in the game, as she was able to answer every tally put up by the Jackrabbits. Brannan also notched Eastern's only goal versus South Dakota on Sept. 17. She took five total shots in that contest, three of which were on frame. The Kennewick, Wash., native has now recorded seven goals in 2010 and 13 total in her career, which ranks third on Eastern's all-time career scoring list. Brannan is third in the conference in points per game (1.17) and tied for first in goals per game (0.58). She is also tied for the top spot in total goals with seven on the season. In addition to her dominance within the conference, Brannan also appears in the national ranks, as her goals per game average of 0.583 is 55th among all Division I athletes.
Brannan and Huff on Conference Watch List - According to TopDrawerSoccer.com, sophomore Whitney Brannan and junior Dashia Huff are among the top 20 players in the Big Sky Conference. In the most recent list, updated on Tuesday, Oct.12, Brannan was tabbed as the No. 10 player in the conference, while Huff appeared at No. 19. Brannan has scored seven goals for the Eagles this season and leads the team in total shots with 32, 17 of which have been on frame. Huff transferred to EWU this season from Walla Walla CC, where she earned NWAACC All-Star honors in 2009. Huff has started as a member of Eastern's back line in all 10 games of the 2010 season.
Hageage Added to NCAA Regional Advisory Committee - EWU head coach George Hageage was recently appointed to the NCAA Regional Advisory Committee for the Pacific Region. Hageage was nominated for the position by Big Sky Conference Associate Commissioner Ron Loghry. As a member of the committee, Hageage will provide guidance to the governing committee of NCAA Division I soccer for rankings of the top 10 teams in the Pacific Region. Hageage, who is in his 11th year at the helm of the EWU women's soccer program, is also a national staff member of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, where he contributes a vote in the accredited Top 25 poll -- released each week on NSCAA.com.
Martin's Laudable Leadership - Senior defender Lyndsey Martin was recently named co-captain for the 2010 soccer season. Martin joins Brittany Sparks and Lacey Schreiner as the senior leaders of the Eagle soccer program, both on and off the field. Martin has started all 12 games of the 2010 campaign as the central defender for EWU, and is among the top three players on the team for minutes played so far in the season. Martin earned All-Big Sky honorable mention accolades during her sophomore campaign in 2008, and has tallied one goal and one assist in her career.
Freshmen Firepower - The EWU women's soccer team has relied heavily on its freshmen contingent for valuable minutes off the bench this season. Nine different freshmen have played in at least one game for the Eagles, while two have appeared in all 12. In Eastern's 2010 home openers versus Seattle (Sept. 3) and UC-Irvine (Sept. 5), two different freshman earned points for the team. Hannah Scott was credited with an assist in the game against Seattle, while Erin Bourguignon notched her first-career goal with the Eagles in the showdown with UC-Irvine. Bourguignon has taken 18 total shots this season, which ranks second on the team. Seven of her 18 shots have been on frame, while she is just one of three Eagles who have scored a goal this season. Cheney native Tanya Baker has also been a constant in the Eagle lineup, as she has appeared in nine of Eastern's nine games thus far, including a start in the midfield versus Cal State Fullerton on Aug. 29. Freshmen Melissa Bishop and Hannah Scott, two Oregon natives, have also played in nine of Eastern's 12 games this season.
Eagles Picked Sixth in BSC Preseason Poll - Similar to the start of last year's storybook season, Eastern was picked sixth in the 2010 Big Sky Preseason Coaches' Poll. Last year, the Eagles were selected eighth in the preseason rankings, but proved the pollsters wrong when they claimed runner-up honors in the regular season with an impressive 4-2-1 conference record. That mark in league play was the best for the Red and White since the 2004 campaign. Including last year's run, EWU has advanced to the BSC tournament four of the last eight seasons.
It's a Family Affair - The Eastern Washington Eagles have a long history of "soccer sisters." This year, the team features one set of sisters in Whitney and Brianna Brannan. Throughout history, the Eagles have had three sets of twins on the team, including two at the same time. Cynita and Cyeeta Mott and Jennifer and Kim McMullen all played on the field together during the 2004 season. In addition to siblings, the EWU coaching staff is a full-family effort. Head coach George Hageage and assistant coach Tamara Hageage have been married for 10 years, while George's father, George Jr., has served as volunteer assistant coach for the last seven seasons.