September 21, 2010

Late Goal Lifts Vandals to 1-0 Victory Over Eastern

Eagles play solid, but can't come up with equalizer after Idaho's tally in the 76th minute

The Eastern Washington University soccer team held a strong Vandal squad for nearly 76 minutes, but a late goal by UI sophomore Jill Flockhart proved to be the game winner, as Idaho upended the Eagles 1-0 Tuesday (Sept. 21) evening at Joe Albi Stadium in Spokane, Wash. Eastern falls to 0-7-1 on the season, while Idaho extends its overall record to 7-2.

It was a complete deadlock for much of the contest, as a majority of the play between the Eagles and Vandals transpired in the middle of the park. Idaho had a total of nine shots in the first half, compared to five for the Eagles.

"We played with good intensity tonight," said EWU head coach George Hageage. "Idaho is a very solid team, but we were still able to attack and create scoring opportunities, which has been one of our main focuses. We had a few good chances, and I wish we could have put one away, but I think we are learning that playing aggressive and competing hard is the key for our team right now."

There was a eight-minute span during the first period that saw Idaho take five threatening shots, but EWU's netminder Jamie Walker was able to come up with several big saves to keep the Vandals off the scoreboard.

In the 26th minute, Idaho's Amber Pimley hammered a shot that hit the crossbar and bounced back to the edge of the six-yard box, where her teammate Megan Lopez stood. Lopez was able to get a head on the rebound, but her shot drifted high over the net. Six minutes later, UI sophomore Chelsea Small fired a hard and fast shot to the upper corner, but Walker made a textbook save, as she jumped to get a hand on the ball and popped it over the crossbar. On the ensuing corner kick, Walker stopped another Idaho header from finding its way to the back of the net.

The Vandals seemed to control the overall pace a bit more in the second half, but Eastern was still challenging. Senior Brittany Sparks had a strong breakaway just four minutes into the second period, but Idaho's goalkeeper Liz Boyden came up with a nice save of her own to keep the score tied at zero.

Idaho managed to break the stalemate in the 76th minute when sophomore Erica Hart snuck a cross past the EWU defense, which Flockhart was able to one-touch into the net. The goal was Flockhart's first on the season.

"There was a 15-miunte stretch in the second half when we dipped in our intensity and movement," said Hageage. "But this is our third game in five days, and I am proud of the way we played. If we can have this same kind of output versus USC, I am confident that will be a very competitive match."

Junior Whitney Brannan, who was recently tabbed as the Big Sky Conference offensive player of the week, led the Eagles with three shots, one of which was on frame. Sparks followed with two shots, while four other Eagles had one. Walker, who played all 90 minutes against Idaho, ended the game with a career-high nine saves.

Eastern will return home for its next contest, as it takes on the No. 22 team in the nation in Southern California on Sunday (Sept. 26) at the EWU Sports and Recreation Playing Fields. The Trojans, who won the NCAA  championship in 2007, will be making their first-ever stop in Cheney, Wash. Kickoff is set for 12 p.m.

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