EWU women’s soccer pick up four points at home as conference play begins

Senior+forward+Savannah+Hoekstra+fights+for+the+ball+during+EWU%27s+win+over+NAU+on+Sept.+24

Jeremy Burnham for The Easterner

Senior forward Savannah Hoekstra fights for the ball during EWU's win over NAU on Sept. 24

By Jeremy Burnham, Staff Reporter

After a 10-game non-conference schedule that saw EWU women’s soccer team finish with a record of 6-4-0, the Eagles finally opened up Big Sky Conference play this past weekend. EWU welcomed two BSC teams to Cheney. After playing Sacramento State University to a 0-0 tie on Friday, the Eagles shut out Northern Arizona University 4-0 on Sunday.

Friday’s match was a defensive showcase that left each team scoreless. However, Eastern had a chance to score early. After an opportunity for SSU was broken up by senior defender M’Kenna Hayes in the second minute of play, the Eagles moved the ball up the field quickly leaving a streaking senior forward Delaney Romero with a one-on-one opportunity against SSU freshman goalkeeper Aaliyah Fesili. Fesili was able to hold her position and make the save. Romero’s shot on goal was the closest either team came to scoring for the rest of the match. Defense and goalkeeping earned EWU the tie. Senior goalkeeper Emily Busselman was sharp for the Eagles and finished with four saves.

Emily made two huge saves in the first half that kept us in it because we didn’t start well,” said EWU head coach Chad Bodnar. ”She made some really good saves, she was steady throughout the match and didn’t make any mistakes. Our backline with M’Kenna [Hayes], Grace [Klinkenberg], Megan [Spataro] and Lexi [Klinkenberg] were solid for us today and locked it down in the back.”

Sunday’s highly anticipated match was against an NAU team which ranked No. 2 in the Big Sky Conference preseason poll (EWU ranked No. 1). The last time these two teams met was in last year’s BSC championship game. EWU won that match in penalty kicks.

No extra time was needed this time around as Eastern scored early and often. BSC  all-time scoring leader Chloe Williams put some distance between herself and former scoring leader Amanda Ellsworth. The senior forward scored the game’s first goal and now has 93 career points. Ellsworth still holds the Big Sky record for career goals with 39, but Williams is closing in on that mark as well with 37. Romero added a goal in the 39th minute to give the Eagles a 2-0 halftime lead.

The second half was the Aimie Inthoulay and Devan Talley show. In the 56th minute, the latter found the former in scoring position and delivered a perfect pass, which Inthoulay was able to send into the net for a goal. Later, in the 79th minute, Inthoulay returned the favor, assisting Talley for a goal of her own.

Eastern controlled this game from the opening kickoff to the final buzzer. They outshot NAU 16 to five, with 10 of those 16 shots on goal. NAU was only able to manage one shot on goal.

Though Talley had a stellar performance, after the game, she was more excited about the performance of the team.

“Our team really had it all together today,” Talley said. “Our forwards finished every chance that we had, and our defense stopped almost every ball. The midfield really got the ball in.”

Coach Bodnar, who was not happy with how the team started Friday, liked how they got things going on Sunday.

“I thought we started the match really well and the effort level was high from the beginning. When we start that way, we end with a good result,” said Bodnar. “We have a lot of weapons and a lot of players that are talented and can score goals.”

The Eagles continue their campaign to repeat as Big Sky champions on October 1 with a home match against Southern Utah University, before hitting the road for a two game road trip. Kickoff is at noon at the EWU soccer field. Admission is free.