Eagles aim for first victory of 2010 season against nearby rival Gonzaga
The Eastern Washington University soccer team will have one more shot at claiming its first victory of the 2010 campaign before Big Sky play begins, when the team travels to Spokane, Wash., to face the Gonzaga Bulldogs on Sunday (Oct. 3) at 1 p.m.
The Eagles are coming off a challenging week, in which the squad faced a flourishing Idaho Vandals team and the No. 20 Southern California Trojans. The Vandals, who have won eight of their 11 contests this season, edged Eastern by a narrow one-goal margin. The two teams were in a complete deadlock for 80 percent of the match, but in the 76th minute, Idaho managed to sneak a goal past the EWU defensive unit. In the matchup with the 20th-ranked Trojans, Eastern was the first team to draw blood, as Brittany Sparks set up Whitney Brannan with a clean breakaway just two minutes after kickoff. Brannan slotted home a shot to the bottom corner of the net, which marked her seventh goal on the season. Eastern did a respectable job of disrupting the USC game plan, but the Trojans converted several shots from the outside to win by a score of 5-1.
Eastern will look to reverse its luck this weekend when it plays a familiar Gonzaga team. The Eagles and Bulldogs have met 15 times in Eastern's 13-year history, with GU holding an 11-3-1 advantage in the all-time series. Although the Eagles have only mustered three wins against the Bulldogs, all three of those victories came on GU's home field. In the most recent meeting between the two teams on Sept.6, 2009, GU blanked Eastern 2-0 in Cheney. Gonzaga scored in the fourth and 90th minutes of the contest, and took 30 total shots, compared to six for EWU.
The Bulldogs hold a 4-6-1 overall record thus far in the 2010 season. Eastern and Gonzaga have played four of the same opponents this year, including No. 24 UC-Irvine, Seattle, Idaho and No. 20 Southern California. Like Eastern, Gonzaga fell in all four of those contests. The Bulldogs main offensive threat this year is junior Sarah Rhodes, who has recorded four goals and two assists. Six other players on the GU roster have scored goals, while 10 different players have tallied assists.
Following the matchup with Gonzaga, Eastern will embark on its 2010 Big Sky Conference season, which begins with three-consecutive road matches. The first contest will be at Portland State on Oct. 8.
Brannan Tabbed as Big Sky Player of the Week - Whitney Brannan, a junior on the EWU women's soccer team, was recognized as the Big Sky Offensive Player of the Week (Sept. 21) for her stellar performances in South Dakota on Sept. 17 and 19. Brannan scored four goals over the weekend, which included her first-career hat trick against South Dakota State on Sept. 19. With her three-goal performance in Brookings, S.D., Brannan broke the EWU single-game scoring record of two, which had been achieved 11 times in history, one of which was by Brannan last season. Although the Eagles fell in double-overtime in the match against SDSU., Brannan's goals kept EWU in the game, as she was able to answer every tally put up by the Jackrabbits. Brannan also notched Eastern's only goal versus South Dakota on Sept. 17. She took five total shots in that contest, three of which were on frame. The Kennewick, Wash., native has now recorded seven goals in 2010 and 13 total in her career. She moved up to second on Eastern's all-time career scoring list, and is just two goals away from nabbing the record outright. Brannan leads the conference in points per game (1.56) and goals per game (0.78), and is tied for the top spot in total goals (7). In addition to her dominance within the conference, Brannan also appears in the national ranks, as her goals per game average of 0.78 is tied for 26th among all Division I players.
Brannan and Huff on Conference Watch List - According to TopDrawerSoccer.com, sophomore Whitney Brannan and junior Dashia Huff are among the top 20 players in the Big Sky Conference. In the most recent list, updated on Tuesday, Sept. 28, Brannan was tabbed as the No. 10 player in the conference, while Huff appeared at No. 19. Brannan has scored seven goals for the Eagles this season and leads the team in total shots with 27, 15 of which have been on frame. Huff transferred to EWU this season from Walla Walla CC, where she earned NWAACC All-Star honors in 2009. Huff has started as a member of Eastern's back line in all seven games of the 2010 season.
Hageage Added to NCAA Regional Advisory Committee - EWU head coach George Hageage was recently appointed to the NCAA Regional Advisory Committee for the Pacific Region. Hageage was nominated for the position by Big Sky Conference Associate Commissioner Ron Loghry. As a member of the committee, Hageage will provide guidance to the governing committee of NCAA Division I soccer for rankings of the top 10 teams in the Pacific Region. Hageage, who is in his 11th year at the helm of the EWU women's soccer program, is also a national staff member of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, where he contributes a vote in the accredited Top 25 poll -- released each week on NSCAA.com.
Martin's Laudable Leadership - Senior defender Lyndsey Martin was recently named co-captain for the 2010 soccer season. Martin joins Brittany Sparks and Lacey Schreiner as the senior leaders of the Eagle soccer program, both on and off the field. Martin has started all nine games of the 2010 campaign as the central defender for EWU, and is among the top three players on the team for minutes played so far in the season. Martin earned All-Big Sky honorable mention accolades during her sophomore campaign in 2008, and has tallied one goal and one assist in her career.
Freshmen Firepower - The EWU women's soccer team has relied heavily on its freshmen contingent for valuable minutes off the bench this season. Nine different freshmen have played in at least one game for the Eagles, while two have appeared in all nine. In Eastern's 2010 home openers versus Seattle (Sept. 3) and UC-Irvine (Sept. 5), two different freshman earned points for the team. Hannah Scott was credited with an assist in the game against Seattle, while Erin Bourguignon notched her first-career goal with the Eagles in the showdown with UC-Irvine. Bourguignon has taken 16 total shots this season, which ranks second on the team. Six of her 16 shots have been on frame, while she is just one of two Eagles who have scored a goal this season. Cheney native Tanya Baker has also been a constant in the Eagle lineup, as she has appeared in seven of Eastern's nine games thus far, including a start in the midfield versus Cal State Fullerton on Aug. 29. Freshmen Melissa Bishop and Hannah Scott, two Oregon natives, have also played in seven of Eastern's nine games this season.
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 also currently tied for first in career goals (14), while ranking second in career points (31) and game winning goals (4). She is third in career assists (6) 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. The senior from Kennewick, Wash., is also quickly moving up on the career assists category, as she has recorded three already this season. She is third on EWU's career assists list with six total and If she earns two more assists this season, she will nab the record outright.
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.
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.