Brannan Records Hat-Trick, but Eagles Can’t Hold on in Overtime, Fall to Jackrabbits 4-3

Brannan breaks EWU's single-game scoring record and moves up to third on career goals list after stunning performance in Brookings, S.D.

The Eastern Washington University soccer team persevered after being down at three different points in the game, but could not contain the Jackrabbits in overtime, as it fell to South Dakota State 4-3 on Sunday (Sept. 19) in Brookings, S.D. With the loss, the Eagles drop to 0-6-1 on the season, while the Jackrabbits improve their overall record to 4-1-3.

Every time the Jackrabbits scored during the contest, Eastern would fire back with a goal of its own, but Danni Healy's golden goal in the second overtime period kept the Eagles from recording its first win of the 2010 season.

"I was very happy with the team's effort and resolve today," said EWU head coach George Hageage. "We never like to lose, especially in overtime, but I felt we displayed some of the best ball possession we've had all season. SDSU was well organized and extremely quick, and we did a good job handling their pressure."

Junior Whitney Brannan earned her first-career hat trick, as she scored all three of Eastern's goals in the match. She broke EWU's single-game scoring record of two, which had been achieved 11 times in the program's 13-year history. The Kennewick, Wash., native also moved up to third on Eastern's all-time career scoring list, as she now has 12 career goals, six of which have come this season.

The Jackrabbits got on the board early when Kayla Braffet netted her second goal of the season just two minutes after kickoff. Eastern answered at the 12:01 mark when senior Brittany Sparks made a diagonal run up the field and fired a hard shot at SDSU goalkeeper Elisa Stamatakis. Stamatakis was not able to corral the ball and the rebound landed right at the feet of Brannan, who quickly slotted home the shot. Sparks was credited with the assist, which was her first point of the 2010 season.

South Dakota State would score once more before the half, but the Eagles came out of the break on the offensive, as it knotted the score again at 2-2 in the 59th minute. Sparks gained possession of the ball, made a quick turn and then split the defense with a powerful left-footed pass. Brannan was able to latch on to the ball from Sparks, at which point she took one controlled touch and then sent a shot straight past the goalkeeper and into the back of the net. Sparks earned her second assist of the day, and fifth total in her career.

"We were finally able to isolate Whitney and Sparks up front, and those two did a great job working together," commended Hageage. Sparks made some great decisions, which set up the goals for Whitney.  We have a lot of speed up front with those two, and we figured out how to play to our strengths. We also worked well out of the midfield today. Melissa von der Hofen especially did a great job of distributing the ball. Despite the loss, we feel the team is finally doing the things we asked of them in terms of getting forward and scoring goals."

The Jackrabbits extended its lead once again when Courtney Higgins converted a corner kick in the 62nd minute. Four minutes later, Brannan solidified her hat trick, after she picked off the defense and toe punched a shot right at Stamatakis. The ball rebounded of goalkeeper and Brannan was there to put it away.

The two teams battled for the remaining 30 minutes, but neither the Eagles nor the Jackrabbits could net a game winner during regulation, resulting in extra periods. Just one minute into the second overtime period, Healy found herself in front of an open net after the EWU defense missed a tackle at the edge of the box. Eastern's netminder Jamie Walker came out of her box to try and intercept the shot, but it deflected off her and dropped in the net on the far post.

Eastern will return to the Inland Northwest for its next contest, as it faces off with Idaho on Tuesday (Sept. 21) at Joe Albi Stadium in Spokane, Wash. Game time is set for 7 p.m.

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