Eagles Play Idaho Sunday in Final Tune-Up Before Big Sky Season Begins

Eastern hoping confidence from first win continues to flourish in final preparations for conference


After three-consecutive home games, the Eastern Washington University soccer team will hit the road this week for its final test before the start of Big Sky play. Eastern takes on Idaho Sunday (Sept. 25) at 1 p.m. on Guy Wicks Field in Moscow, Idaho.

The Eagles are coming off their first win of the 2011 season - a 4-0 shutout of The Evergreen State College. In the win, Eastern tied the school record for fewest shots allowed by an opponent, as Evergreen managed just four shots throughout the 90-minute contest. Senior forward Whitney Brannan also tied an individual record for shots taken in a single game with eight.

Although Eastern is excited that the monkey of the first win is off its back, the team is eager to get back on the field to prove it wasn't a fluke.

"We did what we had to do in that game," said EWU head coach George Hageage. "No matter who you're playing, when you can limit a team to four total shots, that is a great thing. I think getting that first win definitely gives us some confidence, especially in our younger players. It's encouraging to see some of the things we work on day in and day out, like getting more corner kicks and creating opportunity in the attacking third, come together."

"This was a good stepping block," added Hageage. "But Idaho is obviously a team that will present more of a challenge. The speed of play will be a lot faster, and we'll just have to see if we can adapt to that."

Idaho currently owns a 3-4-2 record in the 2011 campaign, but that record will look different come Sunday, as the Vandals have two additional games lined up this week against BYU (Tuesday) and Gonzaga (Friday). Eastern, on the other hand, has a milder week of just practice and then of course, the beginning of fall quarter.

As a former member of the Big Sky, Idaho has maintained relationships with many schools still in the conference. The Eagles are one of four Big Sky teams appearing on its 2011 schedule. The Vandals have already played Portland State, Idaho State and Montana. Idaho fell to the Vikings, 2-1, but turned around to beat ISU, 4-1, and then handed Montana its first loss of the year - a 3-2 decision in Moscow.

With exception of the 2003 season, Eastern and Idaho have met at least once every year since the start of EWU's women's soccer program in 1997. The Vandals hold a 9-5-0 edge in that all-time series. Most recently in 2010, EWU and UI met at Joe Albi Stadium in Spokane, Wash, where the Vandals narrowly edged EWU, 1-0. The last victory for Eastern came in 2008, when the Eags topped Idaho by the same score (1-0) in Cheney.

Eagle Soccer News & Notes

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 three goals, three points, 19 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.

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 from its young members thus far in 2011. Currently, Eastern's leading goal scorer is freshman Cassie Black (Battle Ground, Wash.). Black has notched five goals on the year to rank second in the Big Sky Conference. Freshman Jessica Wallace (Bellingham, Wash.), has tallied three of Eastern's seven assists this season, while sophomore Siara Byers (Bremerton, Wash.) has earned four points with one goal and two assists. Seven of the underclassmen have started at least three games, while a total of 10 have played at least 45 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 most recent outing 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 shut 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 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 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 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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