Eagles Host Wyoming in 2011 Home Opener

Eastern hopes cooler climate and familiar field will lead to first win of season

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Home field advantage couldn't come at a better time for the Eastern Washington University women's soccer team. The Eagles will be looking to snap a four-game losing skid when it hosts Wyoming this Sunday (Sept. 4) at the EWU Sports and Recreation Soccer Field in Cheney, Wash.

Eastern has seen bursts of brilliance in its first four matches of the season, but the young squad has struggled to hold onto its edge for an entire 90 minutes.

"It looks like in the second half of these games, we are getting a little tired, and that leads to a number of breakdowns," said EWU head coach George Hageage. "It's not happening with just one person. A lot of small mistakes here and there end up hurting us in the long run. I was really encouraged by how we played in the first half of both the Boise State and Air Force games. Now, we just need to find a way to put a whole game together."

In both games of the 2011 Bronco Invite, Eastern was the first team to score. Against Air Force (Aug. 27), Eastern had earned a 2-0 lead just six minutes into the game. Although the Falcons managed to get one goal back before halftime, the Eags were in command for the first 52 minutes. EWU out-shot Air Force 11-5 in the first half, but the second half was a different story, as Eastern was out-shot 13-3.

"We have scored in each of our first four games of the season," said Hageage. "That is certainly an improvement from last year. Scoring was one of our biggest challenges last season, but we seem to have figured out that piece. Now, we just need to tighten up in the back."

The Eagles will make their home debut on Sunday against Wyoming, which comes in with a 2-2-0 record. The Cowgirls dropped their first two matches of the year against Oregon and Montana, but rebounded with back-to-back wins over Utah Valley and Colorado.

Wyoming finished the 2010 season with a 7-10-3 overall record. One of those seven wins came against EWU on Sept. 12 at a neutral site. The 3-0 shutout was Wyoming's fifth-straight victory over the Eags.

The Cowgirls returned six starters from that 2010 squad, as well as four other letterwinners. However, UW's main offensive threat this season was not on the field a year ago. Redshirt-freshman Sara Paul leads the Cowgirls with two goals on a team-high 15 shots.

"Wyoming is going to be a great challenge for us," said Hageage. "But we are looking forward to playing them at home, and in slightly cooler temperatures than we've experienced the past two weeks. We haven't had a game yet where the temperature at kickoff was below 95 degrees."

News & Notes

Black Delivers in Boise - Freshman Cassie Black from Battle Ground, Wash., scored all three Eagle goals at the 2011 Bronco Invite. She had a textbook header goal against Boise State (Aug. 25), and notched two more against Air Force (Aug. 27), both of which came in the first 15 minutes of the contest. Black is now among the top three scorers in the Big Sky Conference, averaging 1.25 goals per game. She has played a total of 181 minutes thus far in her rookie season.

Fausko Honored on All-Tournament Team - Senior Kirsten Fausko was recognized for her strong performance this past weekend at the 5th Annual Embassy Suites Kick-Off Classic in Fort Myers, Fla. Fausko, a native of Auburn, Wash., was one of two forwards named to the All-Tournament team, which is selected by a panel of coaches, SID's and media members at the event. Fausko scored her first goal of the season and third of her career in Eastern's narrow 3-1 loss to tournament-champion Robert Morris on Sunday (Aug. 21). She led the Eagles with five shots total on the weekend, three of which were on frame.

Brannan in the Books - In tallying her eighth-career assist in Eastern's 4-1 loss to Florida Gulf Coast on Aug. 18, senior Whitney Brannan became the school's all-time career record holder in assists. Brannan surpassed former Eagles Brittany Sparks, Cyeeta Mott and Beth Russell, who were all tied at seven. The Kennewick, Wash., native is also on pace to break the school's career record for goals, points, shots and game-winning goals. To take sole ownership of these records, Brannan would need four goals, five points, 34 shots and three game winners during the 2011 season. Last year, Brannan scored eight goals on 42 total shots, had one game winner and finished the year with 19 total points.

Eagles are Green Entering 2011 - The Eastern Washington women's soccer team is certainly excited and energetic about the 2011 season, but it may take some time for the Eagles to find their groove, as the roster is full of young, inexperienced players. Eastern returned only four starters from the 2010 squad, and of the seven other returning letterwinners, only five averaged more than 30 minutes per game last season. Eastern added 13 newcomers to its roster this year, including two junior college transfers and 11 freshmen. EWU has four seniors and six juniors on the team for a total of just 10 upperclassmen. The sophomore and freshmen class accounts for 17 of the 27 total members. Head coach George Hageage had this to say about his young 2011 roster: "We really wanted to focus on setting a better foundation, and get this program back to where we were a few years ago. We definitely lost a lot of players, but with so many new players, and with the returners who were here in the spring and introduced to a new coach and new style of operating, we have an amazing opportunity to really build this team from the ground up."

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