Young Eagle squad puts this season's experience to the test against a talented Seattle team on Senior Day
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In the midst of a rebuilding year for the Eastern Washington University women's soccer team, the Eagles missed out on a bid to the Big Sky Conference tournament. The Eagles finished eighth in the league race with a 1-5-1 record, but despite its absence from the postseason, this young squad still has one more opportunity to learn and grow as a unit, and hopefully end the year on a high note.
Eastern will host Seattle U on Sunday (Oct. 30) in its final game of the 2011 season. Prior to kickoff, Eastern will honor its four senior members in Whitney Brannan, Kirsten Fausko, Dashia Huff and Melanie Kitsman.
Without the pressure of conference in this game, the Eagles can really settle in and see how far this team, which features 17 underclassmen, has come since the start of the season.
"This is going to be a great test for us on whether we've learned our lessons," said EWU head coach George Hageage. "We're going to see how far we've matured. Seattle is always a well-organized team. They play a 4-4-2, which has given us some problems this season. But lately, we have been holding our own a lot better, so it will be interesting to see how we fight against them."
The Redhawks come in with 10-6-0 record, from a schedule that had many of the same opponents as EWU's 2011 lineup. Seattle played two other Big Sky teams this season in Sacramento State and Portland State, and also faced Idaho, Gonzaga and Boise State - all of which are teams that narrowly edged the Eags.
Seattle beat both Big Sky squads by a score of 2-1, and topped Idaho, 1-0. But the Redhawks did lose back-to-back contests against Gonzaga and BSU, both of which were 2-0 shutouts.
Eleven different players for SU have scored at least one goal this season, and 11 more have had one assist. Freshman forward Stephanie Verdoia leads the team with 10 points on four goals and two assists. Despite being listed as a defender, senior Jordan Salisbury also has four goals on the year.
Eastern has had six different players score at least once this season, which includes three tallies from Brannan, who will leave Eastern with at least seven school records to her name. The Kennewick, Wash., native is currently tied for the all-time scoring record at EWU with 17 career goals. Her other school records include career assists (11), points (45) and shots (148), as well as single-game goals (3), assists (2) and shots (8).
Brannan is also a two-time All-Big Sky Honorable Mention selection and a two-time Big Sky All-Academic team member.
Senior Dashia Huff has started every single game of her two-year career with the Eagles. She was an All-Big Sky Honorable Mention selection in 2010, and is up for another all-conference honor this season. She has played a total of 2,773 minutes and has tallied one assist in her tenure.
Senior Kirsten Fausko is a four-year letterwinner for EWU, and a three-time Big Sky All-Academic selection. She has scored four goals for the Eagles, and notched two assists. Earlier this season, Fausko was named to the Embassy Suites Kick-Off Classic All-Tournament team.
A two-year letterwinner, senior Melanie Kitsman has appeared in 33 games for EWU. She has scored two goals in her career, including the game winner last season against Weber State when she hammered a beautiful shot off free a kick from 40 yards out.
Eagle Soccer News & Notes
Brannan Storms the Record Book - In her final season with the Eagles, senior Whitney Brannan (Kennewick, Wash.) has either tied or broke six different school records. She has tied former Eagle Brittany Sparks for all-time scoring record at EWU with 17 career tallies. She is the sole record holder for career assists (11), points (45) and shots (148), all of which she achieved this season. Brannan also tied two single-game records this year, to add to the one she set in 2010. This year, Brannan tied the school record with two assists in a single game, which she earned at Weber State on Oct. 16. She has also twice tied the record for shots in a single game with eight shots against Evergreen and at Idaho State. In the 2010 season, she set the record for goals in a single game when she netted three against South Dakota State for her first-career hat trick.
Eagles Endure First OT Game of Season - In its final Big Sky home game of the 2011 season on Oct. 21, Eastern battled Northern Colorado to a 1-1 draw. Prior to that game, Eastern was the only team left in the conference that had not yet played in a single overtime game. In fact, all other BSC teams had played in at least three OT games, including Northern Arizona, which has an unprecedented nine on its season record. Eastern scored right out of the gate against UNC, and then held on to that one-goal lead for nearly 70 minutes. But the Bears managed to find the equalizer in the 70th minute, and after two extra periods, neither team could come up with the W.
Eastern Sweeps Big Sky POW Honors - After earning its first win of the Big Sky Conference season against top-seeded Weber State, the Eagles were honored with a sweep of the Big Sky Player of the Week awards, announced Monday (Oct. 17) by the league office. Senior forward Whitney Brannan was selected as the Offensive POW, while junior goalkeeper Jamie Walker earned Co-Defensive Player of the Week accolades. Brannan tallied two goals on 11 total shots, and contributed two assists for a total of six points in Eastern's road games at Idaho State and Weber State. Against the Bengals, Brannan fired a game-high eight shots, which actually tied her own school record for shots in a single game. She converted on one of those in the seventh minute of the contest, when she recovered a rebound off her own shot and then slipped it in past the goalie. In its next match, EWU topped Weber State in Ogden for just the second time in program history. Brannan had a hand in all three of the goals scored in that game. She assisted on the first two and then scored the third and final EWU tally. The first two goals came after Brannan delivered perfect crosses in from the corner, which her teammates were able to convert from inside the six-yard box. Her goal came in the second half when she earned a breakaway down the center of the pitch and then slotted one home to the bottom left corner. Walker also played an invaluable part in helping Eastern capture the big win at Weber State. The Graham, Wash., native tallied 19 total saves over the weekend, but had a career-high 12 against the Wildcats to earn her second-career shutout. Weber State fired 25 shots in the game, but was not able to convert a single one thanks to the sharp defense of Walker. She had four saves in the first half and eight in the second. Against the Bengals, Walker picked up seven total saves on 14 shots. She finished the weekend with an impressive .905 save percentage. Walker is the top-ranked keeper in the conference in that statistic, with a season save percentage of .818, which also ranks in the top 70 in the nation. Walker ranks sixth in the Big Sky in saves, averaging 4.50 per game, and fifth in goals against average at 1.26.
Jacobsen and Black Garner TopDrawerSoccer Shout-Out - Eastern's junior midfielder Lauren Jacobsen and freshman forward Cassie Black have been recognized as two of the "Top 20 Players" in the Big Sky Conference, according to TopDrawerSoccer.com. Black is one of only two freshmen appearing on the list. Jacobsen is a two-time All-Big Sky Honorable Mention selection. Although she has had to battle several small injuries this season, Jacobsen has a major impact when on the field as the anchor and organizer of EWU's midfield. She scored her first goal of the year in Eastern's 1-1 draw against Big Sky regular-season champion Northern Colorado (Oct. 21). Black, in her rookie season, has proved extremely valuable in her ability to finish around the net. She is currently Eastern's leading scorer with six goals on 16 total shots this season. Eleven of Black's 15 shots have been on frame.
Walker Selected as Big Sky Defensive Player of the Week - After a notable performance between the pipes in Eastern's narrow 1-0 loss to Idaho on Sept. 25, junior goalkeeper Jamie Walker was selected as the Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Week. It was the second POW award of Walker's career, as she was also honored once during the 2010 season. Walker, a native of Graham, Wash., collected a season-high nine saves in the game at Idaho. The Vandals took 24 total shots in the contest, but only managed one goal thanks to the relentless defense of Walker.
Underclassmen Impact - Although as a team, the Eagles have had to battle a few of the obvious challenges that come in a "rebuilding" year, Eastern has had many positive contributions this season from its young members. Currently, Eastern's leading goal scorer is freshman Cassie Black (Battle Ground, Wash.). Black has notched six goals on the year to rank second in the Big Sky Conference. Freshman Jessica Wallace (Bellingham, Wash.), has tallied three of Eastern's 12 assists this season, while sophomore Siara Byers (Bremerton, Wash.) has earned six points with two goals and two assists. Six of the underclassmen have started at least five games, while a total of 12 have played at least 90 minutes.
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). In Eastern's game versus The Evergreen State College, Black had her second two-goal game of the year, as she had two tallies in the first half to lead Eastern in its 4-0 shutout of the Geoducks.
Fausko Honored on All-Tournament Team - Senior Kirsten Fausko was recognized for her strong performance 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.
Eagles are Green in 2011 - Eastern returned only four starters from its 2010 squad, and of the seven other returning letterwinners, only five averaged more than 30 minutes per game last season. Only six Eagles who are on the 2011 roster had five or more starts under their belts at the start of the 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.