Walker, Huff lead EWU's solid defensive effort against league-leading Bears
After 110 minutes of competitive play, neither Eastern Washington nor Northern Colorado could come away with a victory on Friday (Oct. 21) in Cheney, Wash., as the Eagles and Bears ended the Big Sky Conference match deadlocked at 1-1.
Eastern scored right out of the gate, and then held on to that one-goal lead for nearly 70 minutes. But the Bears managed to find the equalizer on a lucky rebound off a free kick.
The tie, which was Eastern's first of the 2011 season, officially knocked the Eagles (2-11-1, 1-4-1 Big Sky) out of postseason contention. The Bears improved to 3-1-2 in conference and 6-7-4 overall.
Eastern notched its goal in just the fourth minute of the contest, as junior Lauren Jacobsen sent one in from the top of the 18-yards box that slipped through the goalkeeper's legs. It was Jacobsen's first goal on the season, while sophomore Marianne Johnson earned her first assist of the year as well.
"I thought the start of the first half was really good," said head coach George Hageage. "We had some opportunities, but we kind of faded in the middle of the first half. UNC is one of the top teams in our league for a reason. We fended them off for a while."
Midway through the first half, UNC's Madison Yoswa broke through Eastern's defense, and created a one-on-one matchup between her and junior goalkeeper Jamie Walker. Yoswa fired the ball towards the top right corner of the net, but Walker made a diving block to deflect the ball out of bounds.
Walker had eight total saves, even after suffering an injury that kept her out of the game for 25 minutes in the second half. Freshman Nathalie Schwery, who was battling a migraine, did well in Walker's place by getting a save of her own. Walker was able to return to the game before overtime began.
UNC's goal came in the 68th minute while Walker was on the sidelines. The Bears were awarded a free kick just a few yards outside the box. Yoswa fired a hard-driven shot off the set piece, which hit the crossbar and bounced directly to Tara Rickenbach, who then punched it in to even the score at 1-1.
"Part of the game plan was to try and sit back a bit after we scored our goal," said Hageage. "But unfortunately, they scored the goal off of that free kick. We were also trying to not give up so many fouls near the box, but today that wasn't the case. We we were fouling left and right."
The Eagles were out-shot by UNC, 24-9, and the margin may have been even wider had it not been for the play of Eastern's center back, senior Dashia Huff. With time dwindling down in the second half, the Bears began to pressure heavily, but Huff's sharp defense prevented two shot opportunities from dangerous range.
"Dashia has played great all year," said Hageage. "I'm really proud of her. She has taken the leadership role. She was the only defender with any experience in Division I at the start of the year, so she's really done a great job of leading the backline."
Eastern's final Big Sky Conference game of the 2011 season will be Sunday (Oct. 23) when the team travels to Northern Arizona to face the Lumerjacks. Kickoff is at 12 p.m.
"When you look at it, Weber State was No. 1 in the Big Sky when we beat them," said Hageage. "Going into this weekend, UNC was tied at No. 1. We're doing pretty well against the top teams. Things are starting to turn around."