Both lower seeds prevailed in the 2016 Big Sky Semifinal contests Friday in Cheney with the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks and unofficial host Eastern Washington Eagles advancing to the championship game at noon Sunday.
The Big Sky Semifinals on Friday were two completely contrasting contests as the morning meeting between third-seeded Northern Arizona and second-seeded Sacramento State was a back-and-forth five-goal affair while the afternoon showdown of local foes Eastern Washington, seeded fifth, and regular season champion Idaho was narrow match decided on a late goal.
Sunday's championship will present Eastern Washington with a chance to avenge its biggest loss of the season, a 3-1 road defeat in Flagstaff. In that contest, Heather Donais (Kennewick, WA) set up Adrian Nixt in the 23rd minute for a lead that held well into the second half before Chloe Williams (Spokane, WA) finished a one-on-one opportunity to tie things up in the 77th. Ali Lixandru, though, put the Lumberjacks back in front in the 79th and Nixt locked things up in the 89th. A 3-1 defeat at UNLV in their second preseason match was the only other two-goal loss for the Eagles, who head into the final with a 13-4-3 overall record.
Last season when the Eagles played host to NAU, Eastern won 4-2. Chloe Williams set up Jenny Chavez in the 18th and scored herself in the 37th. Delaney Romero (Yakima, WA / Walla Walla CC) struck 15 seconds before intermission and Williams set up Tasha Luu (Colville, WA) in the 62nd. Nixt set up Mei-Te Coco in the 77th and Lindsay Doyle scored in the 87th in NAU's rally attempt.
First Round Recaps...
Eastern Washington 1 :: 0 Idaho #####
Facing the only side that was able to hand them a loss this season, the Vandals were looking to get past Eastern Washington to return to the Big Sky championship and complete unfinished business from a year ago. Though both sides had chances in the game, the contest was highlighted by blocked shot after blocked shot, keeping things in a scoreless stalemate. At the end of the match there were 16 total shots, but only three were on target.
With just under three minutes remaining, someone finally broke through. On a quick throw-in on the right from Delaney Romero (Yakima, WA / Walla Walla CC), Aimee Inthoulay popped the ball forward over the high line of the Vandals, allowing Chloe Williams (Spokane, WA) to race past the defenders. She flew up the right side, battling the back-tracking Amanda Pease along the inside edge of the box until she reached the endline, where she fired the ball into the six. Allison Raniere came charging in from the opposite side and first-timed the ball home, creating a frenzy on the Eastern bench. It was Raniere's first goal of the year.
Eastern ran out the clock, leaving the two-time regular season champions devastated as the Eagles celebrated advancement to the Big Sky Final just two days after posting their first-ever postseason win. Mallory Taylor finished with one save in the shutout. MORE: EWU [+] UI [+]
Big Sky Tourney Post-Game: Quick thoughts from Chloe Williams @EWUSoccer @BigSky_Soccer pic.twitter.com/r5IqfGXJvL— Gerald Barnhart (@INWsoccernews) November 4, 2016
Big Sky Tourney Post-Game: Interview with @ChadBodnar @EWUSoccer @BigSky_Soccer pic.twitter.com/4wKzofFZF7— Gerald Barnhart (@INWsoccernews) November 4, 2016
Big Sky Tourney Post-Game: Interview Part 1 with @CoachDPittman @VandalsSoccer @BigSky_Soccer pic.twitter.com/fWRH42Ldf5— Gerald Barnhart (@INWsoccernews) November 5, 2016
Big Sky Tourney Post-Game: Interview Part 2 with @CoachDPittman @VandalsSoccer @BigSky_Soccer pic.twitter.com/NL5YiXfXGb— Gerald Barnhart (@INWsoccernews) November 5, 2016
Northern Arizona 3 :: 2 Sacramento State #####
The Hornets took the lead in the 22nd minute when Regan Smithers scored on a close-range shot that deflected in off a defender. With just over five minutes left in the half, Heather Donais (Kennewick, WA) launched a ball out of midfield that Anna Goebel, whose younger sister is a redshirt-freshman at Eastern Washington, chased down and beat the keeper to and finished.
The Lumberjacks took the lead four minutes into the second half when Lindsay Doyle drove into the box and was taken down. On the resulting penalty Destiny Butcher got her hand to the ball, but her save deflected to the inside of the post, giving Doyle the goal. Jennifer Lum tied it back up for the Hornets in the 65th with a run to the edge of the box before finishing, but the joy only lasted briefly with Goebel scoring after she ran down a long ball over the top less than a minute later. It was the third of the tournament for Goebel, who came into the event with none for the season and just one start in 12 appearances. MORE [+]
Big Sky Conf Semi: Quick thoughts from Heather Donais (Kennewick) after 3-2 @NAUWomensSoccer win @BigSky_Soccer @KamiakinBraves pic.twitter.com/qfRCI3iXnI— Gerald Barnhart (@INWsoccernews) November 4, 2016