Cheney, Wash. – The Eastern Washington University soccer team sent its seniors out on top, defeating visiting North Dakota, 2-1, Sunday, Oct. 25, in EWU's final home match of the 2015 season.
Coupled with Northern Colorado's loss to Idaho earlier today, Eastern and UNC are tied for second place in the Big Sky Conference standings with one match remaining. The Vandals' win means this year's league tournament will be held in Moscow, Idaho, while the Eagles remain in the hunt for the championship's No. 2 seed and a first-round bye.
EWU improves to 6-2-1 in conference play and 12-3-2 overall with the win while North Dakota falls to 2-6-1 in Big Sky matches and 4-11-2 overall.
Eastern was on the attack from the start, dominating possession in UND's half of the field while peppering the visitors' goal with shot attempts. The Eagles got their breakthrough in the 11th minute after sophomore Delaney Romero took a lofted through ball from freshman Devan Talley and fired it into the top left corner of the net just past the outstretched hands of North Dakota's goalkeeper.
EWU remained on the offensive for the rest of the opening stanza, tallying 23 shots and forcing UND's keeper to make a number of impressive saves.
The eventual match-winner came from the penalty in the 56th minute after one of North Dakota's defenders took sophomore Chloe Williams down in the 18-yard box. Sophomore Aimie Inthoulay calmly slotted the ball home, giving Eastern a 2-0 lead.
The visitors would pull one back on a penalty of their own in the 89th minute, but Eastern's defense held the rest of the way to secure the win.
Williams was unlucky not to score on the day, hitting the crossbar and the post on separate occasions, finishing with a total of six shots on goal.
Sophomore goalkeeper Mallory Taylor was largely untested during the 90 minutes, being called into action just three times, all in the second half. Three of EWU's four defensive starters, sophomores M'Kenna Hayes and Laci Rennaker and freshman Emily Bringold, played all 90 minutes and kept UND's offense at bay.
Eastern finished the match with 38 shots, 21 of which were on target. North Dakota managed just seven total shots, four of which were on frame.
Olivia Swenson, UND's goalkeeper, notched 19 saves in a very impressive performance between the pipes.
Quoting Coach Bodnar
"I thought we played really well in possession, and the style of play we want to bring to the program was evident today. You always hope to finish most of your chances in front of goal, but North Dakota's keeper did a very good job today. We were a little unlucky on a few of them, but at the end of the day, the win is what matters, and its encouraging to see us continue to progress with this style of play."
The Eagles have now scored 34 goals so far this season, topping the program's previous high mark of 28 goals set back in 2007. Williams needs one more goal to tie EWU's individual single-season mark set by Brittany Sparks back in 2009.
Eastern is still in contention for the No. 2 seed at this year's Big Sky Championship, but will need either a win or tie against regular season champion Idaho in its final regular season match. If the Eagles stay level with Northern Colorado in the league standings after next week, the conference tiebreaker will come down to each team's result versus the Vandals.
EWU will play its final regular season match of the season this Friday, Oct. 30, at Idaho. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. PST.