Junior Cassie Black scored her 17th career goal as an Eagle, tying a school record, as EWU topped North Dakota State 3-0 Sunday afternoon in Fargo, N.D. to close out the Doublewood Inn Classic. The goal was Black's third of the year, tying her with Whitney Brannan and Britney Sparks atop the EWU all-time goals list.
Goalkeeper Nathalie Schwery, who ended the game with two saves, and EWU's entire back line of defenders held strong all game to lock up Eastern's first shutout of the season. It was the third shutout of Schwery's career at EWU.
"I was happy with both performances this weekend in terms of effort," EWU head coach George Hageage said after the match. "We didn't let our lead slip away today in the second half like we have in the past, and for that I'm really proud of the team."
It was Eastern's game from the start, as the Eagles came out aggressive and stayed that way throughout the contest. Although the artificial turf at Dacotah Field made it hard for either team to keep the ball on the ground, EWU was consistently getting opportunities to score and controlling the ball well over the first 45 minutes of play.
Black's goal came as a result of that aggressiveness in the 13th minute, when a pass from Kayla Sutter turned into a bullet from just outside the box. Black's shot went sailing into the net's upper right corner to break the 0-0 tie.
Defense was the name of the game for most of the next 60 minutes as both teams fought against windy conditions through halftime and into the second half.
"The wind was a huge factor for us today," Hageage added. "That and forcing NDSU into making mistakes allowed us get ahead."
The scoring drought was ended in the 72nd minute by Nicole Medeiros, who sent a 30-yard shot sailing from the right side over a sprawling Sierra Bonham, the Bison keeper. The shot came via an indirect free kick off the foot of Sutter, who registered a pair of assists in a single game for the first time in her career and tied a school record in the process.
What happened next was nothing short of icing on the cake for the Eagles, who had built a comfortable 2-0 lead with under 20 minutes to play.
In an effort to stay aggressive, EWU consistently sent shots into the NDSU zone to keep pressure on the Bison back line. One of those pressuring shots was from Katie Cashman, whose kick was inadvertently redirected into the Bison net by Bonham and the NDSU defense with just under 15 minutes to give EWU their third and final goal.
"Our game plan after we scored the second time was to manage the clock by shooting balls through and making their defense chase," Hageage explained. "That own goal was directly due to the fact that we put them under such pressure."
The Eagles were credited with the goal as a team, considering it was the Bison, not an Eastern player, who ultimately put the ball in the net.
"With the small mistake we made Friday that was the difference against SIUE and the success we had today, the difference between the two is so razor thin for this team," Hageage said. "So today went a long way in showing people that we can play against tough teams and score goals when it counts."
One negative on an otherwise outstanding match by the Eagles came midway through the second half, when, in a one-on-one situation just outside the goalie box, Black was dragged to the ground by Bison defender Tristyn Walczak in a deliberate effort to keep the all star from scoring. Walczak was given a yellow card for the intentional foul, while Black lay writhing in pain on the turf with a clear arm injury. Black left the game and did not return.
Eastern had solid stats in most every category on Sunday. Not only did they outshoot NDSU 10-7, but 60 percent of EWU shots were on goal. Alisha Stott and Katie Cashman led the Eagles with two shots apiece.
The Eagles now make the return trip to Cheney with their non-conference schedule in the books. Eastern is set to leave Wednesday for a Thursday matchup at Idaho State to open Big Sky Conference play. From there they travel to Ogden, Utah for Saturday's game against Weber State.