NAU spoils Eastern's hopes for a tournament bid
For the fourth time this season, the Eastern Washington University soccer team fell victim to a golden goal in overtime, as the Lumberjacks of Northern Arizona handed Eastern a 2-1 loss on Sunday (Oct. 24) in Cheney, Wash. The Eagles have now played in five overtime games this season, four of which have ended in heartbreaking fashion. The EWU record for overtime games played in a single season is six, which occurred in 2008.
With the win, the Lumberjacks became the Big Sky regular-season champs and clinched the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. NAU, who was ranked among the top teams in the Pacific region in the latest NSCAA poll, is now 10-3-3 on the season and undefeated in league play at 5-0-1. Eastern has one game remaining on its schedule, but will most likely be out of tournament contention, as they now own a 2-4 record in the BSC and 2-13-1 overall mark.
The golden goal came in the fourth minute of the first overtime period, when NAU senior midfielder Sam Monahan played a ball thru to her teammate, Jenna Samora. Eastern's goalkeeper Jamie Walker came off her line to try and intercept the pass from Monahan, but Samora beat her to the ball and one-touched a shot straight to the back of the net.
Despite the unfortunate ending, the Eagles played one of their best games of the season against the league's No. 1 squad. Eastern had a 10-7 advantage in shots on goal, even though NAU took four more corner kicks and were awarded eight more free kicks than the home team. In total shots, the Eagles trailed the Lumberjacks by a mere five, while eight of NAU's 20 total shots came in the final 15 minutes of the contest.
"It's really unfortunate how the game ended, because we certainly played well enough to win," expressed EWU head coach George Hageage. "Northern Arizona is easily one of the best teams we have faced this year. They have 10 wins on their record for a reason, so for us to come out and play that well against them is commendable."
The first half ended with the score knotted at 0-0. Eastern had a 10-5 advantage in shots in the first frame, which included seven knocks on target. The Eagles drew first blood in the 49th minute when junior Whitney Brannan made a great run down the sideline, and then beat her defender with a nifty cutback in the corner. She sent a strong cross into the box to find Kirsten Fausko charging the goal line. Fausko connected on her first touch, sending the ball into the net for her first tally of the 2010 campaign. Brannan collected her 19th point of the season, as she was credited with the assist.
Twenty minutes elapsed before NAU was able to find an equalizer, but at the 69:14 mark, Chelsea Bednarz recovered a deflection deep in Eagle territory and converted a shot from just outside the six-yard box.
With ten minutes remaining in the contest, it looked as though Eastern might get the upset when senior Brittany Sparks earned a breakaway down the center of the pitch. The Eagles all-time leading scorer was forced to take an off-balanced shot though, and the ball rolled just wide of the net.
Walker ended the game with four total saves, while NAU goalkeeper Tori Rocke collected eight. Ten different Eagles fired shots, including three by sophomore Lauren Jacobsen and two by senior Lacey Schreiner and junior Melanie Kitsman.
Eastern will face Montana in its final home game of the season on Friday (Oct. 29) for Senior Day at the EWU Sports and Recreation playing fields. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m.