Eagles Prepare for Big Week Against Idaho and No. 25 Southern California
Eastern to play Vandals on Tuesday (Sept. 21) at Joe Albi Stadium in Spokane, Wash., before hosting one of the top programs in the nation in USC
After playing its last three games on the road, the Eastern Washington University soccer team will return to the Inland Northwest for an exciting week of soccer. The Eagles will play Idaho on Tuesday (Sept. 21) at Joe Albi Stadium in Spokane, Wash., followed by a matchup with the No. 25 Southern California Trojans on Sunday (Sept. 26) at the Sports and Recreation Playing Fields in Cheney, Wash.
For the first time in program history, the EWU soccer team will have the privilege of playing at Joe Albi Stadium in Spokane, Wash. The Eastern football team has played at this site several times in the past, but Tuesday's matchup with Idaho will be a first for the soccer program. The stadium, originally opened in 1950, was resurfaced with FieldTurf in 2006 and has a seating capacity of 28,464. Joe Albi has been the home site of several USL Premier Development League teams, including the Spokane Shadow (1996-2005) and Spokane Spiders (2010-present). The Black Widows, who are a member of the Women's Premier Soccer League, also started using the stadium for its home games in 2010.
"We are very excited about playing in this venue" said EWU head coach George Hageage. "Anytime you play under lights, it seems to energize the players. This game also gives us an opportunity to get on turf and see what it feels like to play at game speed on that type of surface. Our first Big Sky game is at Portland State, which is a turf field. One of the main reasons we scheduled the game at Albi was to get us ready for that contest. It can be difficult to adjust your game to a different surface, as the ball tends to bounce higher and roll faster on turf, so I know this game will be very beneficial in preparing us for league play."
With exception of the 2003 season, the Eagles have played the Vandals at least once every season in its 13-year history. Idaho holds a slight advantage in the all-time series at 8-6, but Eastern has won five of the last six contests. The Vandals edged EWU in the most recent meeting in 2009 by a score of 4-1, but that was the Vandals first victory against the Eagles since the 2002 season.
Not only will EWU be looking to avenge the loss suffered in 2009, but the Eagles are hoping to record their first win overall in the 2010 season. Despite two solid outings in South Dakota this weekend (Sept. 17-19), the Eagles couldn't muster a victory in the Mount Rushmore State, as it extended its losing skid to six. Idaho will enter the contest with a slightly more positive overall record of 6-2. However, both losses on the Vandals' 2010 schedule so far have came against schools that Eastern has also seen and lost to this season, which includes UC-Irvine and Wyoming.
"Idaho is a good squad this year, and they handled us pretty well last season, but I am quite encouraged by the way we performed this past weekend in South Dakota, and I think it will be a great contest," said Hageage. "It seems right now, we are still trying to find our identity, but I think it is a great sight that we were able to get into the attacking third and score goals within our system this weekend. I am really happy with where we are headed – we just need to get that monkey off our back, which we hope to do that against Idaho."
Following the battle with the Vandals, Eastern Washington will suit up for the highly-anticipated matchup with No. 25 Southern California. USC is historically one of the strongest programs in the nation, as evidenced by their national championship run in 2007. The Trojans have certainly remained a powerhouse in Division I soccer in the subsequent three seasons, as they are currently ranked 25th in the NSCAA Top 25 poll with a 5-1-2 overall record in 2010.
The Eagles and Trojans have met once before and that was during the 2006 season, when USC edged Eastern by a score of 2-0 in Los Angeles, Calif. Although EWU has struggled in the past versus teams from the esteemed Pacific-10 conference, the Eagles will have a slight advantage, as they will be playing on their home field.
"What an incredible opportunity for us to host one of the top teams in the nation," said Hageage. "Any team in the top 25, especially one out of the Pac-10 Conference and in soccer, one out of California, is going to be extremely tough. Their players are technical, they run at you with pace and they are crafty with the ball at their feet. In the Big Sky, we'll have players here or there that are of similar quality, but there won't be an entire team that is quite put together like a USC. I am certainly excited for our squad to see what the top of the top looks like, but this game is also important, because if we win the Big Sky Tournament, our first-round opponent is probably going to be a team just like this."
The showdown between the Eagles and Trojans will kick off at 12 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 26.
Brannan Delivers in South Dakota - EWU junior forward Whitney Brannan scored four total goals last weekend in Eastern's matchups with South Dakota (Sept. 17) and South Dakota State (Sept. 19). Brannan earned her first-career hat-trick against SDSU, as she scored all three of Eastern's goals in the contest. With that performance, she also broke EWU's single-game scoring record of two, which had been achieved 11 times in history, one of which was by Brannan last season. The Kennewick, Wash., native has now scored six goals in 2010 and 12 total in her career. She moved up to third on Eastern's all-time career scoring list, and is just three goals away from nabbing the record outright. After her performance in South Dakota, Brannan now leads the conference in points per game (1.71) and goals per game (0.86), and is tied for the top spot in total goals (6). She ranks second in total shots (21) and shots per game (3.00). In addition to her dominance within the conference, Brannan is also among the national ranks, as her goals per game average of 0.86 is tied for 19th among all players at the Division I level.
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 Thursday, Sept. 16, Brannan was tabbed as the No. 10 player in the conference, while Huff appeared at No. 19. Brannan has scored six goals for the Eagles this season and leads the team in total shots with 21, 12 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 seven 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 five games of the 2010 season 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 seven. In Eastern's 2010 home debut 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 13 total shots this season, which ranks second on the team. Five of her 13 shots have been on frame, while she is just one of two 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 five of Eastern's seven games thus far, including a start in the midfield versus Cal State Fullerton on Aug. 29.
Record-Setting Sparks - Senior Brittany Sparks appears in the EWU record book in eight different categories. Last season, she set the school record for single-season goals (11), points (22) and game winners (3). She is also tied for first in career goals (14), while ranking second in career points (31) and game winners (4), and fourth in total shots (92). If Sparks scores just one goal this season, she will become the top goal scorer in Eastern Washington history!
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.