October 17, 2010

Eagles Even Conference Record with 2-1 Victory Over Wildcats

Eastern scores two goals off set pieces, including Melanie Kitsman's game-winner from 30 yards outside the box

The Eastern Washington University soccer team claimed its second-straight Big Sky victory on Sunday (Oct. 17), as it defeated Weber State 2-1 at the EWU Sports and Recreation Playing Fields in Cheney, Wash. With the win, Eastern evens its conference record to 2-2, which puts the team just one spot out of fourth in the league standings. Eastern owns the same record as No. 4 Portland State, but the Vikings have a slight edge, as they won the head-to-head battle with the Eagles last weekend in Portland, Ore. Weber State falls to 1-2-1 in the BSC and 2-13-1 overall.

The game winner for Eastern came in the 51st minute of the contest after the team was awarded a free kick just inside the midfield line in Wildcat territory. Junior Melanie Kitsman lined up for the shot and ripped a low, hard-driven ball to the near post. Weber State's goalkeeper Ryann Waldman came off her line to try and intercept the kick, but was distracted by an on-running Whitney Brannan. As a result, Kitsman's powerful shot from 45 yards out slipped right by the keeper and fell into the back of the net, giving Eastern a 2-1 advantage. The goal was the first of her career.

"Mel was a major factor in both our wins this weekend," commended EWU head coach George Hageage. "She did a great job of holding the middle of the park for us. We had switched some personnel for these home games, and Mel was one of the new players to earn a starting spot. I was very pleased with her effort and physicality in the midfield."

Eastern's first tally of the game was also the product of a well-executed set piece. Brannan was the player on the ball for this free kick just outside the 18-yard box. Brannan launched a ball to the near post, where she found senior Brittany Sparks charging the goal line. Sparks one-touched the ball into the net for her third goal of the season and 17th of her career. The Brannan-to-Sparks goal in the eighth minute of Sunday's contest marked the sixth time this season the two players from Kennewick, Wash., have connected with one another for points. Brannan has assisted on two of Sparks' three goals this year, while Sparks has had the helper on four of Brannan's eight tallies in 2010.

Weber State did manage to even the score before halftime when junior Roxie Tebbs scored off a feed from her classmate Jessie Baddley. The Wildcats held a 17-11 advantage in total shots and a 14-8 edge in fouls, but Eastern was able to keep WSU off the scoreboard in the second half.

"I was really happy with our work rate," said Hageage. "The team is really starting to believe they can win, and once a team finds that confidence, it's amazing what can happen."

Sophomore goalkeeper Jamie Walker collected eight saves en route to earning her second victory for the Eagles. She recorded her first-career shutout on Friday (Oct. 15), when EWU topped Idaho State 2-0. Between the two contests, Walker tallied 15 total saves.

Eastern will return to conference play on Friday (Oct. 22) when they take on the No. 3 team in the league in Northern Colorado. Kickoff from Greeley, Co., is set for 6 p.m. pacific time.

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