December 12, 2008

Eastern Finishes 2008 with Wins in Final Two Games

Dec. 12, 2008

The Eastern Washington University women’s soccer team may have had a disappointing 2008 campaign, but the Eagles did finish – and head into 2009 – on a solid note with wins in the team’s last two contests, both in Big Sky Conference play and both either eliminating their opponent from playing in the Big Sky Championship or sending the opposition to the brink of elimination from post-season play.

The Eagles finished the campaign 4-11-3, 2-4-1 in Big Sky play, moving up to sixth place and doubling the team’s overall win total with those two victories. A 1-0 defeat of Northern Colorado on Oct. 26 ended meaningful competition for the Bears in 2008, while a dramatic, comeback 3-2 overtime victory over Montana in the season finale on Oct. 31 pushed the Grizzlies to the brink of elimination and ended Eastern’s campaign in exciting fashion.

Whitney Brannan, who had just entered the game 16 seconds earlier, toe-poked a loose ball in the box past the goalkeeper and into the net to win that overtime affair for the Eagles. Lauryn Koelzer finished off an Eagle double-strike (two goals in just over four minutes) earlier in the game, earning Eastern a 2-1 lead. The score was her seventh of the season, setting the school record in that category. She also had 14 points in 2008, just two shy of that school mark.

Koelzer and Abby Jensen also placed themselves on several career lists after outstanding careers as Eagles. Koelzer finished third in goals (10), fourth in points (22) and tied for fourth in game-winning goals (3). Jensen was second in games started (67), fourth in goals (9) and fifth in points (20).

Following the season, the Big Sky coaches showed just what they thought of the quality of Eastern’s team by naming four Eagles to the All-Big Sky second team: Jocelyn Bement, Sara Byrne, Chelsey Hannesson and Brittany Sparks. Just three times previously had EWU seen as many as four Eagles honored by the league office (four in 2002 and 2004, five in 2005). Also, a quartet earned honorable mention accolades: Lillian Bourret, Jensen, Koelzer and Lyndsey Martin.

Also, the Eagles as a team led the conference in saves per game with 7.17. Ashley Renz was third in individual saves per game as well as 39th nationally in that category (5.79). Koelzer placed second in goals per game (0.39) and fourth in points per game (0.78).

Renz, fellow goalkeeper Jessica Blessard and the entire Eastern defensive line helped keep opponents off the scoreboard in 2008. The Eagles held seven opponents to just a goal or fewer.

Academically, the Eagles earned the NSCAA Team Academic Award for the ninth consecutive year with a team grade point average of 3.25. The Eagles placed second in the Big Sky in GPA.

Eastern Washington had some of its best performances of the year at the SDSU Invitational where the team defeated the hosts, South Dakota State, by a 2-1 score before tying North Dakota State 1-1 and claiming the tournament crown. Bement earned Most Valuable Player accolades, while Blessard, Bourret and Koelzer also attained All-Tournament honors.

The road win over SDSU became even more impressive when the Jackrabbits advanced to the second round of the NCAA Championship (one of only two EWU opponents this year to advance to that level on the national stage – Missouri was the other).

Another solid road performance was achieved on Oct. 3 when the Eagles scored in a 3-1 loss to Washington State, the first home goal allowed by the Cougars in 397:57, dating back to a 2-1 WSU win over eventual national champion USC on Nov. 11, 2007.

The team earned its first-ever point in Pocatello, Idaho, when the team tied Idaho State in a 1-1 double-overtime thriller on Oct. 9. The Eagles came within a couple minutes of claiming an impressive road win in the Big Sky season opener before ISU tied the contest at the 87:20 mark.

The Eagles played an exciting season, as six contests went to overtime, a school record. In fact, throughout the first 11 years of the program’s history entering 2008, the team had played in just 21 total overtime affairs (1.9 per season). Five of this year’s overtime contests went to a second extra session.

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