Sparks notches first goal of season; becomes all-time leading scorer in Eastern history
The Eastern Washington University soccer team dropped its final non-conference matchup on Sunday (Oct. 3), as it fell to Gonzaga 2-1 in overtime. GU's Cassie Geerdts netted the golden goal in the 99th minute of the game to give the Bulldogs the victory in Eastern's fourth overtime game of the season. The Eagles drop to 0-9-1 on the year, while Gonzaga improves its overall record to 5-7-1.
Eastern got on the scoreboard first after senior Hannah Kreminski made a solid run down the center of the pitch to find senior Brittany Sparks just inside Gonzaga's 18-yard box. Sparks got a foot on the pass from Kreminski and slotted home her first goal of the season and 15th of her career. With the tally, Sparks became Eastern's sole record holder for career goals. Prior to the game, the Kennewick, Wash., native was tied with former Eagle, Cyeeta Mott, for the school record at 14, but she nabbed the title outright with her tally in the third minute of Sunday's contest.
Gonzaga evened the score at the 29:29 mark when Emily Hutchins recovered a ball inside Eastern's six-yard box and punched a shot to the back of the net. The goal was Hutchins first of the season. Gonzaga took nine total shots in the first frame, while Eastern fired six.
The Eagles struggled more in the second half to control the pace of the Bulldogs, as Gonzaga took 19 shots, compared to just three for Eastern. GU was not able to convert any of those chances though, thanks to the scrappy defense exhibited by the Eagles. Gonzaga had two shots hit the crossbar and several others bobble around the goal line, but Eastern was relentless in protecting its net. Goalkeeper Jamie Walker was also brilliant from her position between the pipes, as she ended the game with a career-high 10 saves, seven of which came in the second half.
The game winner came just before the end of the first overtime period when GU's Morgan Manchester made a strong throw in from the sideline that landed right at the penalty area. Geerdts took a nifty shot that floated just over the fingertips of Walker.
"It's just heartbreaking for the girls because they fight so hard, but can't seem to get that break," said EWU head coach George Hageage. "I was really proud of their effort in the first half. Our team was aggressive and was moving the ball around well, but Gonzaga picked up the intensity in the second, and we couldn't stay with them."
"We are 0-0 in the Big Sky though, and I know we can compete with every team in the conference," said Hageage. "We just need to keep our heads up."
Eastern will open conference play on the road at Portland State on Friday (Oct. 8) at 5 p.m.