Overcoming adversity was the theme of the 2012 season for the Eastern Washington University women’s soccer team, and the Eagles did just that.
After concluding the 2011 season with a 2-13-1 overall record (1-5-1 Big Sky), the Eagles were picked eighth in the preseason polls. Only the two Big Sky newcomers, North Dakota and Southern Utah, ranked lower.
The team was also hit hard by injuries in the 2012 season. The Eagles lost junior midfielder Marianne Johnson to a knee injury before the year even began, and saw senior leader Lauren Jacobsen go down with a season-ending injury in just the fourth match. The loss of these two wiped out Eastern’s only two experienced center midfielders.
The red and white lost four of the first five regular-season matches, including a heartbreaking 3-2 loss against North Dakota State in the season opener. The match was followed by a 3-0 shutout at the hands of Seattle, a 4-1 rout at Wyoming, and a 1-0 loss to Utah State.
But the resilient Eagles quickly turned their season around, despite the unfortunate beginning. With 12 new recruits and another six sophomore returners, the young team banded together to fill the void created in the central midfield.
In their next nine matches, the Eagles won five games and tied two others.
The game that put Eastern back on track was a 3-1 victory against Boise State (Sept. 9) – a team the Eags had never defeated in school history.
The red and white went on to win the next two matches against Idaho (2-0) and Hawaii (2-1), tying the school record for longest winning streak in a single season with three consecutive wins.
After starting out Big Sky Conference action with a 1-0 loss to Weber State (Sept. 21), the Eagles turned around two days later and defeated Idaho State 2-1. The Bengals went on to be named Big Sky Conference co-regular season champion, and won the 2012 tournament title.
But right when things appeared to be looking up for EWU, injury struck again. This time, it was sophomore defender Brianna Brannan, a staple on Eastern’s backline, that suffered a season-ending broken ankle.
“We had so many injuries you can’t predict or account for when you are headed into the season,” said head coach George Hageage. “But to see players step up and fill those spots for us, especially considering many were freshmen last year or older players who didn’t see the field much – it was just a great team effort all around.”
“Last year we had the same team-oriented attitude,” added Hageage. “But with so many new players, we just could not find the ingredient we needed to be successful. This year, it was different.”
In their second to last Big Sky contest, the Eagles held Northern Arizona to a 0-0 draw, breaking a seven year losing-streak against the Lumberjacks. Two days later, they closed out the Big Sky season with a 1-0 win at Southern Utah.
Eastern tied for sixth place in the Big Sky, with a 3-3-3 record (6-8-4 overall). With 12 points, the red and white tripled their point total from the previous two seasons. Finishing with a .444 win percentage, they concluded the season above a .400 overall win percentage for the first time since 2009.
Two players highlighted the school record book with outstanding performances on the field. Just a sophomore, Cassie Black claimed the career record for most game-winning goals (6), and broke the single-season record as well with four game-winners in 2012. Black also tied for most goals in a single game after securing a hat-trick in Eastern’s 4-1 win against North Dakota (Oct. 5).
Also gracing the record book, sophomore midfielder Haley Stading tied the single-season record for most assists with four.
At the end of the 2012 season, four Eagle players were recognized by the league’s nine head coaches as members of the All-Big Sky Conference team. With the league increasing to ten teams this season, capturing postseason accolades was harder than ever – a testament to the strong performances shown by members of Eastern’s squad. Brannan and Black were named to the All-Big Sky Second Team, while sophomore Katie Cashman and junior Katy Allen grabbed Honorable Mention accolades.
Black was also a Capital One Academic All-District VIII Second Team selection – Eastern’s first player to earn the honor since 2007.
In 2012, Black led the Eagles with eight goals and two assists for a total of 18 points. She started 17 of 18 matches, contributing 1,230 total minutes. The Battle Ground, Wash., native also tallied 45 shots – more than doubling her tally from the previous year. Black put 30 of those shots on goal for a .667 on goal percentage.
Both Brannan and Cashman were vital to Eastern’s defensive line. Cashman started in all 18 matches for the Eagles, tallying 1,643 total minutes – the most on the team. Up until Brannan’s injury, she had started in all 15 contests and recorded 1,275 minutes. Thanks to the strong defensive presence of both players, the Eagles recorded five shutouts in 2012.
Allen also stepped up for the red and white after injury struck the veterans, taking over the central midfield position in her first year with the team. As a junior college transfer from Yakima Valley Community College, she recorded three shots in 1,078 minutes, putting two on goal for a .667 on goal percentage.
“The good thing about this team is how they handle adversity,” said Hageage. “When faced with adversity, you have to decide if you are going to keep going – and I think we did. The whole attitude of the team is different than years before – they believe they can win anytime they step on the field and they want to compete. I think we are in a great spot headed into next year.”