Cheney, Wash. – Fresh off one of the best seasons in program history, a number of challenging nonconference matches and a rigorous Big Sky Conference slate highlight the 2015 Eastern Washington Women's Soccer schedule as announced by head coach Chad Bodnar on Friday, Apr. 3.
Last season, the Eagles finished with eight wins, second-most in program history and set a new school record with five league victories, earning a spot in the Big Sky Tournament for first time since 2009.
After building a solid foundation in 2014, Eastern will play 18 regular season matches for the 2015 season, including ten Big Sky matches in Bodnar's second season as head coach.
"I'm looking forward to the release of our schedule for the fall," said Bodnar, "We have a lot of really good things happening in our athletics department and we are hoping to be a part of what other programs are doing in terms of success on campus."
Much like last year, Eastern will open its regular season mostly on the road, playing six challenging road matches out of its initial eight games.
"Our schedule has us travelling quite a bit again in the non-league portion of the year, with a tough three game stretch in the Midwest over a week early on in the season," said Bodnar, "I think with us bringing in so many new faces to the program we are going to have a period early on where we have to find some cohesion as a group and pave our path for the season."
After losing eight seniors to graduation, Eastern will return 12 letter winners from last year's squad, including freshmen Chloe Williams, Savannah Hoekstra, and M'Kenna Hayes. For their excellent performances in 2014, Williams and Hoekstra received All-Big Sky First Team and Honorable Mention awards from the league, respectively. In addition to the returning roster, the Eagles brought in a staggering 14 new recruits to the squad, including several impact players, back on NLI Signing Day in early February.
Bodnar's first chance to evaluate his team's cohesion will be when EWU travels to El Paso, Texas, on Friday, Aug. 21, to face the University of Texas-El Paso, while just two days later the Eagles match up with New Mexico State on Sunday, Aug, 23.
Eastern will then return home for two of its next three matches with the Eagles competing against CSU Bakersfield on Friday, Aug. 28, before going head-to-head with UC Davis in a neutral site match in Portland, Ore., on Sunday, Aug. 30, and Idaho, in a nonconference meeting, on Sunday, Sept. 6.
After facing the Vandals, EWU will start its longest road slate of the year, a five game stretch that features three matches against Midwest schools. Eastern will travel first to Valparaiso, Ind., to face Valparaiso University on Friday, Sept. 11. In the next pair of matches the Eagles will play Green Bay in Green Bay, Wis., on Sunday, Sept. 13, before battling with UIC in Chicago, Ill., on Wednesday, Sept. 16.
"We like to put our kids in tough spots early on and challenge them right away and see how we respond as a group," said Bodnar, "We have some tough games in our nonconference stretch that we think will make us better down the road."
Closing out the five game road stretch, Eastern will open up Big Sky play by facing conference foes Weber State on Friday, Sept. 25, at 3 p.m., in Ogden, Utah, and Idaho State on Sunday, Sept. 27, at Pocatello, Idaho.
Using a week-long bye that follows the match against the Bengals, the Eagles will return home to face both Sacramento State and Portland State on Friday, Oct. 2, and Friday, Oct. 9, respectively. EWU will then take a trip to Missoula, Mont., to match up against the 2014 regular season champion Montana on Friday, Oct. 9.
Following the road match against the Grizzlies, Eastern will play at home twice in a weeklong span, challenging last year's BSC Tournament champion, Northern Arizona on Friday, Oct. 16, and Southern Utah on Sunday, Oct. 18.
After hosting the Lumberjacks and Thunderbirds, the Eagles will make the trip to Greeley, Colo., to match up with Northern Colorado on Friday, Oct. 23. Just two days later, EWU will play its final home match of the season against North Dakota on Sunday, Oct. 25.
To close out the regular season, Eastern will travel to Moscow, Idaho to compete against Idaho for the second time in 2015 on Friday, Oct. 30. Following the final game of the season, the Big Sky will then transition into the league tournament, a four-day event held by the regular season winner.
Bodnar finalized his comments on the schedule by stating, "I think we learned a lot as a program last year about the conference part of our schedule being the first year as a staff. Travel is always a tough dynamic in the Big Sky and winning on the road is a difficult task. But I think the parity in the conference makes anything possible. We are looking to work extremely hard this spring and improve, and we are excited about the mix we have with our returning players and our new parts coming in."