Eastern to play Redhawks on Friday at 4:30 p.m., followed by the Anteaters on Sunday at Noon.
After a competitive weekend in California, the Eastern Washington University soccer team will get to enjoy home-field advantage for the first time this season, as it hosts Seattle and UC-Irvine on Sept. 3 and 5, respectively, at the Sports and Recreation Center Playing Fields in Cheney, Wash.
“We are very excited for our home opener,” said EWU head coach George Hageage. “Our girls tend to play more aggressive at home because they are more comfortable, and that is exactly what our team needs work on right now -- coming out aggressive and confident, especially on the offensive end. In order to get good scoring opportunities we need to be willing to take some risks, and maybe put ourselves in some uncomfortable positions. In the world of soccer, you won’t get very far by playing it safe all the time.”
The Eagles will be looking to claim their first-ever victory against the Redhawks and Anteaters, as both of the visiting teams hold a 2-0 advantage in the all-time series. Friday’s game against SU will be the third meeting in as many years for the Eagles and Redhawks, but the first to take place on Eastern’s home field. The Redhawks upended EWU in Seattle during the 2008 and 2009 seasons, with identical scores of 2-0. Eastern hopes to avenge one of those losses this weekend when Seattle makes its first trip to Cheney.
“Seattle is a very organized squad,” commended Hageage. “They are well-coached and have an amazing striker in Kara Kuttler. The team does depend on Kara to open up a lot of things for them though, so hopefully if we can disrupt her attack, we will have success against the Redhawks.”
Eastern is also 0-2 all-time against UC-Irvine, but the two teams have not seen each other in nearly a decade. The Anteaters defeated Eastern 1-2 during the 1999 season and again in 2002 by a score of 2-0. Although the Anteaters return 10 of the 11 starters who helped the team capture 12 wins in 2009, the Eagles are confident in their ability to compete with the talented squad from California.
“Irvine is an incredibly athletic team,” said Hageage. “They love to play forward and are constantly pressuring. They will be similar to the teams we played last weekend in California, in terms of their speed and athleticism. Having those two games under our belts gives us a good idea of how to prepare and play against a team like Irvine.”
Junior Whitney Brannan has been the offensive force for the Eagles thus far in the 2010 season. She scored the one and only goal against Cal State Bakersfield in Eastern’s opening weekend. She took a team-leading seven shots over their first two games, five of which were on frame. EWU will also look for contributions from seniors Brittany Sparks and Hannah Kreminski.
Scouting the Opposition
-- The Redhawks are returning eight starters from its 2009 squad. The team is coached by Julie Woodward, who has recorded an impressive 182-67-23 record in her 14 years at the helm of the program.
-- Seattle has already played four games this year, recording two wins and two losses. One of those wins was against UC-Irvine, who the Redhawks beat 2-1 in Irvine, Calif.
-- The Redhawks are led by senior striker Kara Kuttler, who scored 10 goals last season, one of which was against the Eagles. She has taken 14 shots already this year, with four of those on frame.
-- UC-Irvine welcomes back 10 of its 11 starters from the 2009 squad that earned a 12-7-2 overall record, and tied for fourth in the Big West Conference.
-- The Anteaters are 1-1-1 so far this season, after winning their first contest against Idaho (2-1), tying with California (2-2) and then falling to Seattle (1-2).
-- Five different Anteaters have scored goals this season, while five others have taken three or more shots.
-- Look out for senior Tanya Taylor and sophomore Dana Sanderlin, who led the Anteaters in 2009 with six goals and four assists apiece.
Eagles Picked Sixth in BSC Preseason Poll - Similar to the start of last year’s storybook season, Eastern was picked sixth in the 2010 Big Sky Preseason Coaches’ Poll. Last year, the Eagles were selected eighth in the preseason rankings, but proved the pollsters wrong when they claimed runner-up honors in the regular season with an impressive 4-2-1 conference record. That mark in league play was the best for the Red and White since the 2004 campaign. Including last year’s run, EWU has advanced to the BSC tournament four of the last eight seasons.
Record-Setting Sparks - Senior Brittany Sparks appears in the EWU record book in eight different categories. Last season, she set the school record for single-season goals (11), points (22) and game winners (3). She is tied for first in career goals (14), while ranking second in points (31) and game winners (4), and fourth in total shots (92). If Sparks scores just one goal this season, she will become the top goal scorer in Eastern Washington history!
Brannan in the Books - Last season, Whitney Brannan etched her name in the EWU record book in four different categories. She is tied for fourth in single-season goals (5), tied for second in assists (3), third overall in shots (48) and fourth in points (13). Brannan, who scored Eastern’s first goal of the 2010 season last weekend against Cal State Bakersfield, was named to the All-Big Sky honorable mention team for her efforts in 2009.
It’s a Family Affair - The Eastern Washington Eagles have a long history of “soccer sisters.” This year, the team features one set of sisters in Whitney and Brianna Brannan. Throughout history, the Eagles have had three sets of twins on the team, including two at the same time. Cynita and Cyeeta Mott and Jennifer and Kim McMullen all played on the field together during the 2004 season. In addition to siblings, the EWU coaching staff is a full-family effort. Head coach George Hageage and assistant coach Tamara Hageage have been married for 10 years, while George’s father, George Jr., has served as volunteer assistant coach for the last seven seasons.