Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Eastern Washington tops North Dakota, moves back into second

Full INWsn match gallery [+]
The Eastern Washington Eagles put together a great game Sunday with a 2-1 victory over visiting North Dakota, moving the Eagles slightly up the table into a tie with Northern Colorado, which they played to a road draw with on the road Friday, for second place in the league with a game remaining.

Not bad for a team picked in the preseason coaches poll to finish seventh.

"It's what we want the program to be at. It's been a lot of hard work recruiting. The kids that are here are dedicated and committed to what we are doing. We are seeing some results from it, and it's good. At the end of the day it comes down to these last couple weekends - we are just gonna keep working. We are extremely proud of where we are at, but we always want more.

Senior day started off with a thoroughly dominant performance in the first half that saw the Eagles finish with a 23-2 advantage in shots and the defense rarely allowed the visitors passed the center line, and within 25 yards of the goal on two occasions.

Unfortunately, the dominance only yielded one goal for the Eagles, who were buzzing around the net consistently from the start.

Six minutes into the match Devan Talley picked up an unforced turnover at midfield and drove right up the middle to the top of the penalty arc before dishing the ball off to Savannah Hoekstra (Spokane, WA). Hoekstra's shot was blocked, but the ricochet went off another defender and rolled toward goal, missing the right post narrowly to avoid an own goal.

In the 10th minute it looked like Chloe Williams (Spokane, WA) was going to put Eastern in front when a ball in from the right to Hoekstra was redirected to Williams, but her effort from 16 yards smacked off the crossbar.

One minute later, however, the hosts broke through. A ball over the top from Talley put
Delaney Romero (Yakima, WA / Walla Walla CC) through and she fired a nice shot from about 15 yards out to beat the keeper.

The half continued with chance after chance. A 20 yard shot from Williams 26 seconds later was blocked 23 yards wide, and a minute later Williams blocked a clearance to create another chance as she chased it down to the end line and sent a low cross in to Hoekstra only to have her denied inside the six.

In the 34th minute a through ball put Allison Raniere behind the defense as she cut in centrally from the left side to collect the ball, but her unchallenged shot from about 16 yards out went right to goalkeeper Olivia Swenson.

Williams had another shot whistle wide of the mark in the 41st when Paige Gallaway (Spokane, WA), two yards inside the box, laid it back to Williams for the chance.

Two minutes later, the visitors had their best chance of the game when a quick counter caused some issues as they had a two-on-one situation. They were unable to get a solid shot off, however, sending it wide from about 24 yards out.

With less than a half-minute to go, Eastern nearly doubled the lead when Gallaway was dragged down at the very left edge of the box. Raniere quickly restarted the play, catching the visitors off guard as Aimie Inthoulay charged in to send the shot on frame, but Swenson made the stop.

"We played really well. We connected well and we created a lot of chances - had 22 shots. I don't think we could play any better, but the finishing could be better. We got in a lot. But you can't fault that. The kids played extremely hard and I thought, throughout the whole game they played really hard and they were good."

Four minutes into the second North Dakota finally tested goalkeeper Mallory Taylor with a header inside the area that made her work a bit for the save.

After that, the Eagles continued to control the contest, looking to put the match away. A free kick created a chance in the 50th that Williams put wide and a turnover seconds later Lexi Klinkenberg created another, but Hoekstra hit it too lightly and was easily picked up.

Right at the stroke of 10 minutes in, the Eagles were sent to the spot when Williams was driving forward and tripped up three yards inside the box. Inthoulay put it to the right, giving it enough power to get past the Swenson, who got a piece of it as it crossed the line to put Eastern up two.

The visitors worked their way into another rare chance in the 71st when Katie Moller got the ball in the left corner and worked her way into the area where the Eagles defenders were trying not to foul her, but her shot did not challenge Taylor on the play.

Two minutes later Eastern tried to use another quick free kick to beat UND, sending the ball from about 32 yards out forward on the left side that defender M'Kenna Hayes ran onto, but her shot from about 16 yards sailed high. The resulting goal kick, though, nearly netted a third as Swenson had the ball intercepted by Williams, who put her shot just over the bar as well.

With 12 minutes left Eastern threatened again when a ball from senior Tasha Luu (Colville, WA / CC Spokane) on the right popped up in the box off the head of Romero, but the shot from Williams was snared by Swenson.

Eastern's shutout was spoiled when a penalty was called with just over a minute remaining. Kirsten Olson's first attempt to the right was denied by Taylor, but the keeper had made a big step off the line before the kick, giving Olson another chance that she finished.

The result and season has given the team plenty to be excited for in the moment and the future. No matter how things turn out over the next few weeks, the promise of what lies ahead beyond 2015 looks bright with only three seniors - none of whom started - being honored Sunday prior to the contest.

"There's a lot coming back, and a lot of young kids are playing a lot of minutes right now," said Bodnar. "It's encouraging, but we have to keep working, keep going. You can't stop."

Oh, and that one game that remains on the fixture list for the season: the first-place Idaho Vandals that the Eagles topped 2-1 in their final home non-conference game in Cheney earlier this year.

The two programs, separated by a 90-minute drive (72 miles), have been on a nearly identical path and story arc. Both have newly appointed head coaches in their second seasons guiding programs that have had little previous success. And like Eastern, the Vandals were not favored to be contenders this year, selected to finish ninth out of 11 teams.

"That's credit to both programs," Bodnar said. "The winning is something that we expect; like I said. It's something we at the beginning of the year talk about. Sometimes the only people that believe that are in your own locker room. I am proud of our kids, and proud of what we've done. But we are gonna keep going, keep pushing."

Like Eastern, winning consistently is a new paradigm in Moscow, where the Vandals not only have faced changing the outcome on the field, but did it in a new conference. Idaho is in its first season playing in the Big Sky Conference, though it has played a few area teams like EWU in non-conference games previously.

"They've done really well. Credit to Derek and their staff, and their kids. They've found a style that suited them and they've gotten results," Bodnar said. "It's gonna be a battle - it always is between the two schools. We are happy to be in the spot that we are at."

-- INWsn --