Sunday, September 23, 2012

Eastern Washington rebounds for 2-1 win against Idaho State

Bengals celebrate record-setting goal, but Black's strike proved to be the winner | Photos: Gerald Barnhart (gallery)
In a showdown of two teams coming off close-fought, but disappointing results in their Big Sky Conference openers Friday, Eastern Washington University bounced back well in the game and on the weekend with a come-from-behind victory against visiting Idaho State University. A goal and assist from Cassie Black cancelled out a Bengal lead on a strike from Amanda Ellsworth less than a minute in.

Amanda Ellsworth, ISU
Idaho State took advantage of a casual Eagles start with Ellsworth collecting an Eastern turnover shortly after kickoff and letting loose a shot from the edge of the box past Nathalie Schwery with just 22 seconds elapsed, eclipsing the previous Idaho State record of 36 seconds by Stacey Peterson versus Youngstown State in 2002.  

“Ya know what, its mistakes. The most adversity we’ve caused this season has been ourselves,” said Eastern Washington head coach George Hageage. “That’s really been it. A lot of the goals we gave up early in the season were things we were doing wrong, and giving balls to people, not doing the right things, not being in the right positions. We have kind of fixed that. I love the way we bounced back, especially Brianna Brannan (Kennewick, WA), who got caught with the ball at her foot. She bounced back and had a heck of a game so we are really proud of her.”

The visitors nearly doubled the lead in the 16th minute when a ball up to Rachel Strawn was taken down to the right corner before she whipped in a dangerous waist-high cross. The attempted clearance smacked off a fellow Eastern defender, forcing a quick reaction save from Schwery to prevent the own goal.

“Today I thought we executed our game plan well,” said Idaho State head coach Allison Gibson. “We were gonna high pressure the crap out of them and we did - scored 22 seconds in. We executed that well but unfortunately we have just gotten into giving teams (chances). Very few teams have scored great goals against us and earned great goals. It’s been our mistakes that we’ve allowed them to attack our mistakes so unfortunately we did that again twice today. No offence to them - I thought they did well - but I gotta look at us and what we can fix. Just unfortunate for us today to drop this match after starting the way we did.”

Kasey McNeill, EWU
In the 25th minute a long ball over the top from Black found Kasey McNeill (Kennewick, WA) all along with a race to the ball at the edge of the box with the goalkeeper Maria Dela Cruz, who came sliding in to stop the chance. McNeill, however, ended up with possession after the challenge, collecting the ball on the right side of the box and finishing into the empty net from about 12 yards out.

The second half was a clear difference from the opening whistle as the Eagles were far more spirited, raising the intensity on both sides of the ball.

Seven minutes in, the pressure was put on Idaho State’s shoulders with a loose ball finding its way to Black in the left corner of the area, where she unleashed a shot from about 16 yards out that beat the keeper.

“Cassie is doing well. Our offense, people know it, runs through her,” said Hageage. “The thing I challenged the other forwards about is ‘can we get up more shots and more opportunities from you guys,’ so to see her connect with somebody other than Haley Stading was great. To see Kasey get in and score a goal, that was awesome.

Cassie Black, EWU
"And just for good measure Cassie get the game-winner on a goal that’s un-Cassie like. We know she can hit the ball, but she doesn’t usually get into positions to smack one right in the middle of the box, where it’s been knocking around and she’s putting it in. She’s more of a straight ahead kid so that was great. It was a great strike, great goal.”

The Bengals had a chance to respond immediately with Anna Pingree firing a shot from the right side of the box from 15 yards that went wide of the far post.

Looking to hold onto the result, the Eagles switched to a more defensive mode of play and clamped down on the Bengals, who consistently pressured the Eastern defense, but could not get any clean, quality shots on goal – something Hageage was very happy with.

“Until the end when we started panicking a little bit, our back four is playing really well and, basically, as a coach you are sitting there saying, ‘in the Big Sky if we are only giving up a goal or less a game, then we should be in them and we should be winning most of those.’ We’ve given up two goals in two games; I would like us to get a shutout here and there but the back line has done really well and Nathalie only had one or two saves that she really had to make today. That was good.”

Rachel Strawn, ISU
The best Idaho State opportunity to level terms came in the 80th minute when a long ball forward to Strawn on the run allowed her to get a step past the defender and drive into the box. As she neared the six, Schwery stood firm and the defender challenged from behind as she attempted to get her shot off, but it would go wide of the right post.

“Rachel, obviously is doing really well for us,” said Gibson. “The team plays to the strength of Rachel and Anna Pingree (Boise, ID), and Ally Stainbrook in the back. It’s kind of the tone they set that we all kind of jump on board with. We just rely on them quite a bit to raise the level and to make sure (the others) don’t have an off game, and that the fringe players make sure they step up their game every day.”

It was a tough loss to swallow for Idaho State, which took the initial lead in both games on the weekend. The Bengals were just minutes away from a victory in Montana when the Grizzlies struck for the equalizer with under two minutes to play Friday in a 1-1 draw.

“It’s the toughest road trip of the year for us. It’s a lot of hours in a bus, so it takes its toll on us,” said Gibson. “But, we are a team that doesn’t make excuses and we obviously should have gotten it done on Friday at Montana – had the lead with 1:40 to go in the game and gave it up so we came out of there with a tie instead of a win.”

Allison Gibson, ISU Head Coach
The Bengals next face Southern Utah Friday and Northern Arizona Sunday in Pocatello.

“It’s nice to get home. We’ve been on the road five weeks straight. We haven’t had a home game since the middle of August so we are anxious to get home, period, and stay home,” Gibson said with a chuckle, going on to add that while she will be focusing on fixing mistakes, being home will help with half the battle for the team. “Win, attack – just do what we do best and kinda try to execute our game plan. Just get our legs back from under us and just… sleep in our own beds.”

The Eagles were coming off a narrow 1-0 loss to visiting Weber State Friday in which the Wildcats tallied the winner with 11 minutes remaining.

“I thought the way (Weber State) played, they really clamped down on Cassie; they had a man-marker and then a sweeper. They always play with a sweeper anyway so it was frustrating because she had a couple looks early and we didn’t score,” said Hageage, who added that the longer you allow a talented freshman team to remain in the game, it could be trouble. 

“If you keep them in it – and they are talented – they will find a way to figure that they’re better than they might be; and then they end up scoring a real nice goal. We pressed at the end, but just couldn’t get the equalizer.

“It was disappointing, especially for a home loss in the Big Sky, but today makes up a little bit for it.”

Now the Eagles venture away from the nest for a long trip coast-ward to face Sacramento State Friday and Portland State Sunday.

“Next week we are on the road so we get our first taste of Big Sky on the road. Sacramento State is the first game. Their surface is gonna be a lot different than ours. Ours is thick grass that slow rolls and this thing will be moving a little bit so we’ll spend some time on Roos Field (the turf football field) getting used to that. And then Portland State, we are on turf again – we have played there at Portland State so we know Hillsboro Stadium pretty well. We are looking forward to taking on two teams that that I think are playing pretty well at this point.”

The Eagles were at Hillsboro just two weeks ago for the Vikings’ non-conference tournament. Eastern lost the opener, 1-0, to Utah State but their first-ever victory against Boise State, 3-1, in the next match ended a winless 0-5-1 start to the campaign and sparked a 4-1-0 run through the victory against Idaho State.