Eastern to face several new opponents in pre-conference slate
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Eastern Washington University head women's soccer coach George Hageage has finalized his schedule for the 2011 season. The Eagles have 16 contests on tap, including seven at the EWU Sports and Recreation Center Soccer Field in Cheney, Wash.
Eastern will open its 2011 campaign with two tournaments on the road that will both feature a few unfamiliar opponents for the red and white.
"Our two tournaments right off the bat are going to be great tests, especially for our younger squad" said Hageage. "Three of the first four teams we have never seen before, so we're not really sure what to expect. They are probably not quite at the same level as some of our opponents last year, who were ranked regionally and nationally in Division I, but we know they are quality teams. I think we should match-up pretty well."
First, EWU will travel completely across the country for a tournament in Fort Myers, Fla., on Aug. 19-21. Eastern will play Florida Gulf Coast and Robert Morris for the first time in Hageage's tenure.
The Eags will then head to Boise, Idaho, for the 2011 Bronco Invite. The Eagles will play host-school Boise State on Aug. 26, as well as Air Force on Aug. 28.
"We have played Boise State a few times, but never beaten them," said Hageage. "We have never played Air Force, but that is a school that usually competes well against Big Sky teams. I'm not entirely sure what style they play, but I can tell you one thing, I know Air Force will be fit."
Eastern will then have three home games and one short jaunt to Moscow, Idaho, before conference play begins with a trip to Montana on Sept. 30.
"I tried to put this year's schedule together in a way that would have us traveling to tournaments early, and then be closer to home as we head into Big Sky," said Hageage. "I think we accomplished that goal with a good mix of opponents."
The Eagles will open league play on the road at Montana before returning home to face Portland State and Sacramento State, both of which were Big Sky tournament teams a year ago. Eastern will also play Northern Colorado at home on Oct. 21, before traveling to Flagstaff, Ariz., for its final conference matchup on Oct. 23.
"One interesting aspect to this year's conference lineup is who we get to face at home," said Hageage. "The four conference teams that were really playing the best at the end of the season, and could be even stronger this year, were Sac, Portland State, UNC and NAU. We will get to play three of those four schools in Cheney, and I think that will help us a lot."
A little different than usual, the Eags will finish their regular season against a non-conference foe. Because of a change in the conference composite schedule, Eastern will take on Seattle the week before the league tournament on Sunday, Oct. 30.
"This year, the Big Sky schedule has an open weekend before the championship, so we wanted to take advantage of that by playing at least one game," said Hageage. "We think it's important to maintain relationships with other schools in our state or ones close by like Idaho. I really enjoy working with Julie [Woodward, head coach of SU women's soccer] at Seattle, and that weekend worked well with their schedule too, so we are excited to be able to fit in one more competitive contest."
This year's Big Sky Conference Championship is scheduled for Nov. 4-6 at the site of the regular-season champion. Northern Arizona hosted last year after an undefeated regular season at 6-0-1, but Sac State upset the Lumberjacks in Flagstaff in the championship game to advance to the NCAA College Cup for the second time in school history.