Eagles Prepare for Busy Weekend at Home against Portland State and Sacramento State

With Big Sky season in full swing, Eastern still looking for first "meaningful" win

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The Eastern Washington University women's soccer team returns to Cheney this weekend for a pair of Big Sky Conference matches against Portland State and Sacramento State, both of which were Big Sky tournament teams from a year ago.

The Eagles will take on PSU Friday (Oct. 7) at 4 p.m. at the EWU Sports and Recreation Center Soccer Field. On Sunday (Oct. 9), Eastern will host defending Big Sky tournament champion Sacramento State 11 a.m. pacific time. This is the first time in more than a month that Eastern will play two matches in a single weekend. The team has had just one opponent per week for the last five weeks.

Eastern (1-7-0) is coming off back-to-back losses, in which the team fell by a narrow 1-0 margin. In the Big Sky opener at Montana last Friday (Sept. 30), the Eagles held UM for 85 minutes before conceding a goal off a free kick in the final minutes.

"We are continue to take small steps with every game, but we are really still searching for that first meaningful win against a Division I program," said EWU head coach George Hageage.

The Eagles do have one win on their schedule, a 4-0 shutout of The Evergreen State College, but Eastern is still eager to prove itself in the Division I arena.

"We haven't been giving up nearly as many goals as we did early in the season, and we have really limited the mental mistakes," added Hageage. "But with such a young team and so many inexperienced players, there are still a few areas we need to refine in order to get over that hurdle. We need to be more physical and more aggressive in possessing the ball. In one-v-one battles, we are being out-muscled. It's all a learning experience for this team, but hopefully in these next couple games, you will see us improve, especially on the offensive side in terms of scoring goals."

Portland State comes to Cheney with a 5-6-0 overall record and 1-0 mark in conference. The Vikings opened the Big Sky season with a 3-2 victory on the road against Sac State.

Portland State, which returned seven starters from its 2010 squad that finished second in the league with a 5-2-0 record, was picked fourth in this year's Big Sky Preseason Coaches' Poll. The team in beat last weekend, Sac State, was selected second with three first-place votes.

Besides the obvious Big Sky squads, the Vikings and Eagles shared two other opponents this season in Idaho and Boise State. Eastern dropped both contests against the Vandals and Broncos by a one-goal margin. The Vikings defeated Idaho 2-1, but fell 1-0 to the Broncos in double overtime.

Portland State leads the all-time series with Eastern 10-4-1. In the 2010 meeting in Portland, the Viks blanked Eastern, 3-0, but the last time the two teams met in Cheney, they battled to 1-1 draw.

The Hornets have earned a 4-7 record thus far in the 2011 campaign. But like the Eagles, Sac State has endured back-to-back losses in its most recent outings.

The Hornets also returned seven starters from its 2010 squad that captured the Big Sky Tournament title and advanced to the NCAA Women's College Cup. Four of those seven returners are senior defenders, including goalkeeper Savannah Abercrombie, who was an All-Big Sky second team selection in 2010.

In last year's meeting between EWU and Sac State, the Hornets took 24 shots, and only converted on one, but that was enough for the win, as Eastern was shut down with only one shot in the 90-minute contest.

In the 2009 season, when the teams met in Cheney, Eastern was the team to prevail on a 1-0 decision. The Hornets lead the all-time series with EWU, 8-4-1.

Eagle Soccer News & Notes

Jacobsen and Black Garner TopDrawerSoccer Shout-Out - Eastern's junior midfielder Lauren Jacobsen and freshman forward Cassie Black have been recognized as two of the "Top 20 Players" in the Big Sky Conference, according to TopDrawerSoccer.com. Jacobsen is a two-time  All-Big Sky Honorable Mention selection. Although she has had to battle several small injuries this season, Jacobsen has a major impact when on the field as the anchor and organizer of EWU's midfield. Black, in her rookie season, has proved valuable in her ability to finish around the net. She is currently Eastern's leading scorer with five goals on eight total shots this season.

Brannan in the Books - In the first game of the 2011 season, senior Whitney Brannan tallied her eighth-career assist to become the school's all-time career record holder in assists. Brannan surpassed former Eagles Brittany Sparks, Cyeeta Mott and Beth Russell, who were all tied at seven. The Kennewick, Wash., native is also on pace to break the school's career record for goals, points, shots and game-winning goals. To take sole ownership of these records, Brannan would need three goals, three points, 11 shots and three game winners during the 2011 season. Last year, Brannan scored eight goals on 42 total shots, had one game winner and finished the year with 19 total points.

Walker Selected as Big Sky Defensive Player of the Week - After a notable performance between the pipes in Eastern's narrow 1-0 loss to Idaho on Sept. 25, junior goalkeeper Jamie Walker was selected as the Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Week. It was the second POW award of Walker's career, as she was also honored once during the 2010 season. Walker, a native of Graham, Wash., collected a season-high nine saves in the game at Idaho. The Vandals took 24 total shots in the contest, but only managed one goal thanks to the relentless defense of Walker.

Underclassmen Impact - Although as a team, the Eagles have had to battle a few of the obvious challenges that come in a "rebuilding" year, Eastern has had many positive contributions from its young members thus far in 2011. Currently, Eastern's leading goal scorer is freshman Cassie Black (Battle Ground, Wash.). Black has notched five goals on the year to rank second in the Big Sky Conference. Freshman Jessica Wallace (Bellingham, Wash.), has tallied three of Eastern's seven assists this season, while sophomore Siara Byers (Bremerton, Wash.) has earned four points with one goal and two assists. Six of the underclassmen have started at least five games, while a total of 12 have played at least 90 minutes.

Black Delivers in Boise - Freshman Cassie Black from Battle Ground, Wash., scored all three Eagle goals at the 2011 Bronco Invite. She had a textbook header goal against Boise State (Aug. 25), and notched two more against Air Force (Aug. 27). In Eastern's game versus The Evergreen State College, Black had her second two-goal game of the year, as she had two tallies in the first half to lead Eastern in its 4-0 shut of the Geoducks.

Fausko Honored on All-Tournament Team - Senior Kirsten Fausko was recognized for her strong performance at the 5th Annual Embassy Suites Kick-Off Classic in Fort Myers, Fla. Fausko, a native of Auburn, Wash., was one of two forwards named to the All-Tournament team, which is selected by a panel of coaches, SID's and media members at the event. Fausko scored her first goal of the season and third of her career in Eastern's narrow 3-1 loss to tournament-champion Robert Morris on Sunday (Aug. 21). She led the Eagles with five shots total on the weekend, three of which were on frame.

Eagles are Green in 2011 - Eastern returned only four starters from its 2010 squad, and of the seven other returning letterwinners, only five averaged more than 30 minutes per game last season. Only six Eagles who are on the 2011 roster had five or more starts under their belts at the start of the season. Eastern added 13 newcomers to its roster this year, including two junior college transfers and 11 freshmen. EWU has four seniors and six juniors on the team for a total of just 10 upperclassmen. The sophomore and freshmen class accounts for 17 of the 27 total members.

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