October 15, 2011

Eagles Shut-Out Wildcats, 3-0, for First Win of Big Sky Season!

Brannan propels Eastern to thrilling victory in Ogden with one goal and two assists

After coming away empty handed despite a number of quality scoring opportunities in its first four Big Sky games, the Eastern Washington University women's soccer team finally found the back of the net - three times in fact. Eastern defeated the Weber State Wildcats 3-0 on Saturday (Oct. 15) in Ogden, Utah. 

"It's definitely a relief for all the players and coaches to get this win," said head coach George Hageage. People are going to look at this game and think 'They won 3-0 … really?' But we've been playing well all season, and have had a chance to win every Big Sky match. It was good to see the hard work finally pay off."

Senior Whitney Brannan had a hand in all three of EWU's goals, scoring one and assisting on the other two. It was her third goal of the season and 17th of her career. She is now tied with Brittany Sparks for Eastern's career scoring record.

"Whitney has been doing the right things the whole year," said Hageage. "Now all the shots are starting to find the net. She was extremely happy today, especially for the team to come away with a victory."

Eastern's first tally came in the fourth minute, when Brannan found freshman Cassie Black on a cross. Black converted on a perfect header into the back corner of the net, for her sixth goal of the season.

"It was a great goal," said Hageage. "Weber already had a couple scoring opportunities by that point in the game, so it meant a lot to come away with the first goal. Whitney and Cassie executed it with perfection."

With a 1-0 lead at the break, Hageage decided to switch up the team's strategy. The Eagles pulled their outside forwards back and played a 4-2-3-1 formation rather than the 4-3-3 they've been using all season. The move was made to help get numbers behind the ball to counterattack the Wildcats.

"We scored two goals off counterattacks in the second half," said Hageage. "I noticed in the first they struggled defending them, so we decided to attack that weakness. I must say, it worked out pretty well for us."

The second Eagle goal came in the 57th minute when Brannan launched another perfect cross to sophomore Siara Byers who one-touched it from the top of the six-yard box. It was Byers' second goal of her collegiate career.

"Whitney got to the end of the line and saw Siara cut into the box," said Hageage. "We've had chances like this all season, but it finally worked out for us this time."

Brannan's score, the final goal of the day, came in the 59th minute on a breakaway assisted by fellow senior Kirsten Fausko. Brannan fired the shot into the left-center of the goal.

The Eagles return to Cheney for the final Big Sky home match of the season on Friday (Oct. 21) against Northern Colorado. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m.

"Hopefully this is the beginning of starting to turn the corner," said Hageage. "The ladies need to feed off this energy and let it carry over for the rest of the season. Words can't describe how proud I am of this team."

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