Northern Arizona's Physical Play Leads to 3-0 Loss for Eagles
Eagales wrap up Big Sky season in Flagstaff, and will now head back to Cheney for final game of the season against Seattle
The Eastern Washington University women's soccer team dropped its final Big Sky Conference game of the season to a very physical Northern Arizona team, 3-0, on Sunday (Oct. 23) in Flagstaff, Ariz.
"It was a tough match up for us," said head coach George Hageage. "Northern Arizona plays a very physical and direct type of soccer. They don't settle down. Their field is almost like playing on cement, that's how hard it is, and they use it."
The Lumberjacks were able to use the new field to their advantage because the way the ball bounces on the harder surface allows the team to play a much quicker game.
"The field is fast," he said. "We couldn't knock it around as well as we liked to. They ran through us."
Junior goalkeeper Jaime Walker allowed two goals, but had ten saves in the contest, including two deflections that Hageage described as "unbelievable." However, due to the physicality of the game, Hageage decided to pull Walker with about 10 minutes left, as she had suffered a minor injury in Eastern's game on Friday versus Northern Colorado. Freshman Nathalie Schwery replaced her.
"Jaime played great," said Hageage. "She kept us in the game. But it was one of those things where she was getting knocked around pretty good. Northern Arizona followed all of their shots in. But it was good to get Nathalie some playing time."
Eastern went into halftime with a 1-0 deficit, and didn't allow the second Lumberjack goal until the 71st minute.
"We tried to tie the game by having three back instead of four," said Hageage. "I'm not sure if that contributed to the final two goals, but we started pressing and trying to score. It made us vulnerable in the back and their goals came in transition."
The Eagles created more scoring opportunities in the second half. Senior Whitney Brannan had a good shot off a corner kick, but it was cleared off the line. Eastern also had a free kick that bounced around in the box, but the Eags couldn't find a way to get it in to the back of the net.
Hageage commended his team for its play in the second half, as the Eagles were more physical and aggressive. But it came down to NAU's playing style on their home field that determined the final score.
"Last year, at our place, Northern Arizona couldn't run as well," said Hageage. "The ball didn't bounce very high. But on their field, the bounce is so crazy, all they do is flick and run. Their style is great for that field."
The Eagles conclude their season next Sunday (Oct. 30) in a non-conference matchup against Seattle University. Kickoff is scheduled at 1 p.m. in Cheney, Wash.