August 19, 2011

Eagles Fall in Season Opener, 4-1

Unforced errors get the best of Eastern in 2011 debut

With an entirely new squad in place, the Eastern Washington University women's soccer team knew it might take some time to work out the kinks. This young Eagle squad opened the 2011 season with a 4-1 loss to Florida Gulf Coast on Friday (Aug. 19) at the 5th Annual Embassy Suites Kick-Off Classic in Fort Myers. Fla.

The time of possession for each team was fairly even in Friday's contest, and the shot differential was a mere three, but a few breakdowns by Eastern's young defensive unit allowed Florida Gulf Coast too many open looks at the net.

"We definitely played well in spurts," said EWU head coach George Hageage. "But it's obvious we are a young team. We had a difficult time adjusting to the pace of the game, and some of our younger players struggled to keep focus for the entire 90 minutes."

"Florida Gulf Coast is a tough opponent to start out with considering the inexperience with a lot of the players on our roster," added Hageage. "With that said, I was still proud of the fact that against a good team like that, the shots were very close. We created opportunities and forced their keeper to make some saves."

Florida Gulf Coast led Eastern in total shots 12-9, but the shots on goal were even at five apiece. The glaring statistical discrepancy was in corner kicks, as FCG was awarded 10 in the contest, compared to zero for the red and white.

Florida Gulf Coast - also known as the Eagles - got on the board first after an unfortunate turnover by Eastern's goalkeeper. Junior Jamie Walker came off her line to intercept a through ball, but her attempt at a clearance landed right at the feet of FGC's Melissa Arnold, who quickly drove a shot home from 18 yards out.

Just a few minutes later though, sophomore Siara Byers answered with her first-career goal at the 27:26 mark. Junior Danielle Jones sent a solid pass to senior Whitney Brannan in the corner, who then crossed it to Byers on the back post. Byers' first shot attempt deflected off the goalie, but she recovered the rebound and fired another shot which found its way to the back of the net.

Just before the end of the half, FCG extended its lead to 2-1. A well-delivered corner kick by FCG's Brittany Burt created havoc inside Eastern's box, and another misclearance by the EWU defense resulted in another tally for the home team.

Eastern held Florida Gulf Coast for much of the second half, but FGC was able to capitalize on a couple unforced errors late in the game, resulting in the 4-1 loss for EWU.

"We have an entirely new team in place," said Hageage. "The first game of the season by no means defines who we are. We have a lot of work to do in solidifying our defense and we need to continue to get fit, but I saw a lot of encouraging things throughout this game."

The Eagles will wrap up their first weekend of action on Sunday (Aug. 21) against Robert Morris. Kickoff is at 10 a.m. Eastern/7 a.m. Pacific. 

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