Meet the six teams competing in the Big Sky soccer championship

Meet the six teams competing in the Big Sky soccer championship

By Jeremy Burnham, Reporter

The Big Sky Conference soccer championship tournament will be played in Cheney from Tuesday, Nov. 1 to Sunday, Nov. 5. The top six teams in the BSC will compete, with the winner moving on to the NCAA Division 1 championship tournament. Here is a preview of all six teams:


No. 1 – Eastern Washington University.

EWU enters the tournament with a single conference loss on its resume, and none to any team in the field. They also have home field advantage, which could prove to be significant. In five home games against BSC teams, the Eagles have not allowed a single goal. Senior goalkeeper Emily Busselman has 13 saves and a perfect 1.000 save percentage when playing at home in conference play. Offensively, the Eagles are led by all-time BSC goal leader Chloe Williams. The senior forward, who has led her team in goals for the third consecutive season, is a player to watch in this tournament. EWU has a remarkable mix of offense and defense. They lead the BSC in goals, and are tied for the fewest goals allowed. The Eagles will play their first game on Friday, Nov. 3, at 1 p.m., against the winner of the Portland State vs. Northern Arizona match.

The Easterner predicts: Look for the Eagles’ offense to overwhelm PSU or NAU in the semi-finals, and to win a close match against UM in the finals.


No. 2 – University of Montana

When UM last visited Cheney, they had a self-goal less than a minute into the game. After that mistake, the two teams played 89 minutes of scoreless soccer. They held EWU to one shot on goal, and are the only team in the tournament to outshoot the Eagles in a game. The Grizzlies went 5-2-3 in BSC play. Offensively, UM is led by freshman forward Alexa Coyle, who had three goals and five assists in the regular season. A well-coached team by Mark Plakorus, the Grizzlies look to be EWU’s biggest challenge in the tournament. They open play on Friday, Nov. 3, at 10 a.m., against Northern Colorado or Sacramento State.

The Easterner predicts:  The Easterner expects UM’s semi-final match to be against Sacramento State. Expect Sac State to aim for overtime. The Grizzlies, however, will manage a goal in regulation to escape with the victory.


No. 3 – Northern Colorado University

NCU qualified for the tournament because of their defense. They are tied with EWU and UM for fewest goals allowed in BSC play (6). Offensively, however, they have struggled. They are tied for last place in goals (8). Still, sophomore goaltender Madeline Burdick led the BSC in save percentage (.908), and tied with EWU’s Emily Busselman for the most shutouts (6). The Bears’ first match is against Sacramento State on Wednesday, Nov. 1, at 10 a.m.

The Easterner predicts: NCU takes on a Sac State team that led the conference in ties. This, mixed with the fact that the Bears is a low scoring team, poses a danger for NCU, as ties are decided by penalty kicks in tournament play. Look for Sacramento State to pull off the upset.


No. 4 –  Portland State University

Though PSU started the BSC play off 4-1, they have only won once in their last five games. They have been outscored 8-3 in that stretch. In their 3-0 loss to EWU on Oct. 13, they were outshot 25-2. They ended the season with two home losses and a tie on the road against Montana. They open tournament play on Wednesday, Nov. 1 at 1 p.m., against Northern Arizona, in their first neutral game of the season.

The Easterner predicts: The Easterner expects PSU to lose in the first round. While they did defeat NAU on Oct. 6, that was during the first half of the season, and they have struggled mightily in Big Sky play since then.


No. 5 – Northern Arizona University

NAU opened the season as No. 2 in the BSC preseason polls. However, They have struggled more than expected. While they started conference play 3-1, they have just one win in their last six games. Freshman goalkeeper Taryn Benham has a lot to do with the Lumberjacks clinching a spot in the tournament, allowing one goal in NAU’s four wins in conference play. They open the tournament on Wednesday, Nov. 1 at 1 p.m., against Portland State.

The Easterner predicts: NAU plays a PSU team that has also struggled down the stretch. Look for Benham’s play in goal to be the difference. If they beat PSU, they will face EWU in the semi-finals. The last time they faced EWU, they were outshot 16-5 in a 4-0 loss. The Easterner predicts a similar result in the semis.


No. 6 – Sacramento State University

Sacramento State remains the only BSC team to play EWU in Cheney this season and not lose. They held the Eagles scoreless in 110 minutes of play, the first of four ties for Sacramento State on on the season. At 3-3-4, they have been successful at forcing ties against the top teams in the conference. Freshman goalkeeper Aaliyah Fesili’s solid play provides her team with a chance to win each game. In tournament play, there are no ties. Tied games will be decided by a shootout. This makes Sacramento State an extremely dangerous sixth seed. Their first game is against Northern Colorado on Wednesday, Nov. 1 at 1 p.m.

The Easterner predicts: Sacramento State’s strategy of playing for overtime will get them past the first round. They will give UM everything they can handle, but The Easterner expects them to fall to Montana.