EWU faces Idaho St. in Big Sky semifinal on Friday, winner advances to Sunday final
The Eastern Washington University women's soccer team takes on Idaho State in a Big Sky Conference semifinal at 1:30 p.m. on Friday (Nov. 6) in Portland, Ore.
The winner of that contest will play the victor in the Portland State-Northern Arizona contest at 11 a.m. on Sunday (Nov. 8) to decide the Big Sky champion.
The winner of Sunday's game earns the league's automatic berth into the NCAA Championship, to start the following weekend.
The Eagles won 1-0 at Montana on Friday (Oct. 30) to finish second in the league at 4-2-1, 7-8-2 overall. Idaho State was 4-3 in Big Sky action, 9-7 overall.
Portland State claimed the regular-season title and hosting rights with a 4-1-2 record, 10-6-3 overall, while Northern Arizona took the final spot with a 4-3 league mark. The Lumberjacks were 9-8-1 overall.
This marks the first time since 2005 that the Eagles have qualified for the Big Sky Championship. It will be the fifth time EWU has taken part in the event (2004, 2002 and 1998 were the other three years).
Eastern will be looking to advance to the league's title game for the first time in school history.
The Eagles previously took on Idaho State in a Big Sky semifinal on Nov. 7, 2002, in Pocatello, Idaho, which ISU took, 2-1.
Although the Bengals hold an 8-4-1 all-time lead over the Eagles, Eastern has gone 3-2-1 against Idaho State the last six meetings.
This year, the Eagles knocked off the Bengals 1-0 in Cheney on Oct. 11.
Three Eagles Named First Team All-Big Sky
The Eagles had three players named to the All-Big Sky Conference first team after an outstanding season saw the Eagles claim second place in the conference with a 4-2-1 record. Entering the 2009 season, five times had an Eastern player earn first-team accolades.
Named to the first team were defender Chelsey Hannesson, midfielder Brittney Doran and forward Brittany Sparks. Earning honorable mention accolades were four more Eagles: goalkeeper Lisa Dimak, defender Hannah Kreminski, midfielder Lauren Jacobsen and forward Whitney Brannan.
Hannesson earned second team All-Big Sky honors as a junior and honorable mention accolades as a sophomore. She has three assists this year and has been an outstanding defensive player for the Eagles. The senior has played in 70 games in her career, two from the school record, entering this week.
Doran was named second team All-Big Sky as a freshman in 2005. She has been an important part of Eastern's team throughout her career, starting 65 contests, the third-most in school history. Offensively, she scored the goal that gave EWU a 1-0 road win over Montana in the season finale.
Sparks attained All-Big Sky second team honors last year as a sophomore. This year, she led the league in scoring with 0.65 goals per game, an average that places her 31st among NCAA Division I players. She also set the team record for goals in a season with 11 and has tied the career mark with 14.
Dimak has posted four shutouts this season, all in Big Sky play, moving to within one of the single-season school record. Her four shutouts this year also tie her for fourth-most in a career by an Eagle.
Kreminski had a pivotal role in helping lead a back line post those four blankings. That shutout total was the most by any Big Sky school in conference games only in 2009.
Jacobsen scored twice on just six shots in 2009. The first goal was pivotal in that it helped the Eagles win in Ogden, Utah, against Weber State, the preseason league favorites, for the first time, 1-0.
Brannan ranked in the top 10 in the Big Sky in both goals per game and points per game this season with 0.29 and 0.76 averages placing her seventh and eighth, respectively.
Dimak Named Big Sky Defensive POW
Lisa Dimak was named a Big Sky Conference Co-Defensive Player of the Week after the goalkeeper posted a shutout over Montana, 1-0, to help the Eagles secure second place in the final Big Sky Conference regular-season standings and a spot in the Big Sky Tournament, its first since 2005.
In that victory over the Grizzlies, she helped organize a defensive line that only allowed Montana to record two shots on goal, each of which were saved by Dimak.
All four of her shutouts have come in Big Sky play and place her one away from the school record of five, set by Tiera Como in 2004. Dimak's four career shutouts (all this year) are tied for fourth-most in EWU annals.
This is the second time this year she has won the award. She earned the honors after posting a pair of shutouts to help the Eagles to a 2-0 Big Sky record, its best start ever.
Most notably was a save she had in the 78th minute of a road win over Weber State on Oct. 8. That kept the Wildcats out of the net, and the Eagles earned their first of consecutive 1-0 victories. It also marked Eastern's first win in eight tries over the Wildcats in Ogden, Utah.
Three days after that, she helped blank Idaho State in another 1-0 win. The Bengals had just one shot on goal that day.
The last Eagle prior to Dimak to earn Defensive POW accolades was Jessica Blessard, who was named Co-POW on Oct. 29, 2007.
Sparks Breaks, Ties Goal-Scoring Records
Brittany Sparks had already broken the school record for goals in a single season before tying the career record with her 11th of 2009 and 14th of her career.
She tied the career mark (formerly held by Cyeeta Mott, 2004-07) at Northern Arizona on Oct. 25 by chipping the ball over the goalkeeper and then tapping it into the empty net. The score gave EWU a 1-0 lead in a game the Eagles would lose 4-2.
Sparks' seventh and eighth scores of the season, tying and breaking the single-season record (formerly held by Lauryn Koelzer, set in 2008), each came in a dominating 5-1 win over South Dakota on Sept. 27.
The record breaker was a memorable score in and of itself. She sped with the ball 40 yards from goal before racing left to right across the box, beating three defenders and the goalkeeper to create open space and then slotting the ball home.
She has now scored two goals in a game twice this season, having also done so in a 4-1 win over McNeese State on Aug. 29. Each of those feats ties the school record.
After each of those two-goal performances, she was named Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Week, becoming the first Eagle to earn that award since Abby Jensen accomplished the feat on Oct. 1, 2007.
Sparks has 22 points this year as well as three game-winning goals, both of which also set school marks.
She has 31 career points, which are second on that list, four behind Mott's record of 35.
This year, Sparks ranks 31st nationally in goals per game (0.65) and leads the Big Sky in that category. She is also 70th nationally in points per game (1.29) and is second in the Big Sky in that category.
Hannesson Named Co-Defensive POW
Senior defender Chelsey Hannesson was named Co-Defensive Player of the Week by the Big Sky Conference after helping the Eagles to a 1-0-1 week and into sole possession of first place in the league standings just past the midway point of the Big Sky campaign.
On Oct. 18, the senior did an outstanding job helping the defensive line hold Sacramento State to just two shots on goal in a 1-0 defeat of the Hornets.
She was also pivotal in holding Portland State to just one tally in 110 minutes of action in a 1-1 double-overtime tie with the Vikings on Oct. 16.
For the weekend, EWU's defense allowed just that one Portland State goal in 200 minutes.
Sharing this week's award with Hannesson was Portland State's Toni Carnovale.
Zero Equals Win
At times this year, Eastern Washington has had one of the best defenses in the Big Sky Conference. Especially notable are EWU's four shutouts, all coming in Big Sky play and the most by any league school in conference games.
Goalkeeper Lisa Dimak's four shutouts tie her for the second-highest total in a single season in Eastern Washington history. She only trails Tiera Como, who had five in 2004.
Incredibly, Dimak has already moved up to a tie for fourth place for career saves with those four.
On the offensive end of the field, the Eagles have had some outstanding performances this year.
Eastern's 5-1 win over South Dakota on Sept. 27 tied that school record (last achieved in a 5-0 win over Lamar on Aug. 31, 2007), while the Eagles had four in a 4-1 defeat of McNeese State on Aug. 29.
The Eagles have scored 25 goals this year, three shy of the school record of 28 that was set in 2007.
Three times has an Eagle scored two goals in a game this year, as Brittany Sparks accomplished the feat twice (in the McNeese State and South Dakota games) and Whiney Brannan did so once (in a 3-0 defeat of Eastern Oregon on Sept. 9).
The two goals by those players tie the school record, which has been achieved a total of 13 times.
Records Falling by the Wayside
Just past the half-way point of the 2009 season, the Eagles have already seen major school records broken with more expected to fall in the upcoming weeks.
In fact, a total of 10 records have been broken or tied so far this season.
Most recently, Brittany Sparks tied the school record for career goals. The junior now has 14 and shares that mark with Cyeeta Mott (2004-07).
For a single season, the goal-scoring record has fallen (Sparks has 11), as has the marks for most points (Sparks has 22) and game-winning goals (Sparks has three).
Meanwhile, Brannan is climbing the single-season points list, as her 13 tallies place her fourth, just nine behind Sparks' record.
Also, the assists record is close to going down, as a trio of Eagles is one away from Cyeeta Mott's 2007 total of four. Chelsey Hannesson, Morgan O'Friel and Whitney Brannan have three apiece.
In other career categories, Sparks is currently second in points (31), as Mott also holds that mark with 35.
O'Friel has five career helpers, which ties for third on that chart, two off the school mark.
Sparks has four game-winning goals in her career, one from Mott's record of five.
In a single game, Sparks has scored two goals twice this year (versus McNeese State and South Dakota) and Brannan has done so once (Eastern Oregon), tying that school mark, which has now been attained 13 times.
Lisa Dimak is also only one shutout away from that single-season record. She is currently tied for second with four (Tiera Como had five in 2004).
For a team, Eastern Washington's 5-1 win over South Dakota on Sept. 27 tied that school mark, which was originally set in a 5-0 defeat of Lamar on Aug. 31, 2007.
The Eagles also set a school record for longest unbeaten streak, six (4-0-2), which was recorded from Sept. 25-Oct. 18. Eastern also won three straight (Sept. 27-Oct. 11) to tie that mark.
Quartet of Seniors Honored
Prior to the earliest Senior Day in school history, Oct. 18, four seniors, all four-year letterwinners, were honored: Mandy Cheney, Brittney Doran, Chelsey Hannesson and Morgan O'Friel.
Cheney has contributed significantly to Eastern's successes the past four years. In 2007, she was named the team's Most Improved Player. That year, she scored in a 5-0 win over Lamar to help EWU to its biggest win ever.
Doran started her career with All-Big Sky second team accolades in 2005. She was also team Defensive Most Valuable Player in 2007. Doran attained Big Sky All-Academic accolades every year she has been on the team.
Hannesson earned All-Big Sky second team honors in 2008 after receiving honorable mention accolades as a sophomore. She was also named the team's Defensive Most Valuable Player in 2008.
O'Friel has twice earned Big Sky All-Academic accolades, in 2005 and 2007, and received the team's Iron Eagle Award in 2007. She, like Doran, was a member of the 2005 team that advanced to the Big Sky semifinals.
Eagles Raise Money to Fight Breast Cancer
On Oct. 18, the soccer team presented a check for more than $600 to secretary Reggie Brulotte and fundraising chair Kelly Stanicar of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation. The team sold pink cookies over the previous couple weeks to help raise money to fight breast cancer.
"We are really grateful for Mostly Muffins and their generosity in donating the cookies, and we feel this is a great opportunity for our program to give back to our community," assistant coach Tamara Hageage said. "Breast cancer has touched virtually everyone in our program, and we are all very excited to help raise money for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation."