EWU women’s soccer wins second straight Big Sky Conference tournament title

EWU+women%27s+soccer+celebrates+their+Big+Sky+Conference+tournament+title+on+Sunday%2C+Nov.+5.+Jeremy+Burnham+for+The+Easterner.

EWU women's soccer celebrates their Big Sky Conference tournament title on Sunday, Nov. 5. Jeremy Burnham for The Easterner.

By Jeremy Burnham, Reporter

The Big Sky Conference championship trophy is staying in Cheney for the second straight season. On Sunday, No. 1 EWU women’s soccer defeated No. 3 Northern Colorado University 3-0 in the conference tournament championship game. With the win, the Eagles advance to the NCAA Division 1 championship tournament. The bracket will be released on Monday at 1:30 p.m. PT on NCAA.com.

The championship game almost wasn’t even played. The amount of snow that had fallen overnight had BSC officials contemplating pushing the game back a day. However, field staff worked hard and had the field ready for action by game time.

Playing in the snow was a new experience for some EWU players, including junior midfielder Jenny Chavez. Before the championship game, the Eagles got a taste of the snow in Friday’s 2-1 semifinal win against Portland State University.

“I’m from California, so I have never experienced this,” Chavez said on Friday. “We have a few [players from California] on our team. I wouldn’t say it’s the best to play in the snow, but it was a fun experience.”

The championship game was between the two teams who allowed the fewest goals in BSC regular season play. EWU, however, also led the conference in goals scored in conference play, while NCU was tied for last place.

EWU dictated the pace of the game from the start. They controlled the ball for much of the first half, while NCU had a hard time maintaining possession. The Eagles had seven shots – five of them on goal – before the Bears were able to manage their first shot. At the end of the first half, EWU had eight goals to NCU’s one. The Bears only shot went wide right, and never had much of chance of going in. As a result, EWU senior goalkeeper Emily Busselman had a first half shutout without making a single save.

In contrast, six of EWU’s eight first-half shots were on goal. The Bears’ senior goalkeeper Madeline Burdick, whose team was outplayed in the first half, was the main reason the Bears went into halftime tied at zero.

Sophomore forward Saige Lyons (12), junior forward Allison Raniere (4) and senior forward Chloe Williams (10) against PSU on Friday, Nov. 3. Mckenzie Ford for The Easterner.

As good as Burdick was, she would not be enough to beat EWU. She got little help from her offense, as UNC had to wait until the 67th minute to notch their first—and only—shot on goal. The Bears started making defensive mistakes in the second half as well. Freshman midfielder Maddie Barkow turned the ball over in front of her goal, and then pushed over EWU senior forward Savannah Hoekstra.

As a result, Hoekstra was awarded a penalty kick, and was able to beat Burdick for a goal. That would be the first of two penalty kicks awarded to EWU. Senior forward Chloe Williams shot the second—and was able to score as well, bring the Eagles lead to 2-0.

EWU’s final goal of the game came when Burdick made a save, but allowed the ball to bounce off her hands. EWU junior midfielder Alexis Stephenson was there, and sent the ball into the back of the net.

Hoekstra was happy to help her team win in her final home game with the Eagles.

“It felt really good,” Hoekstra said. “I’m really happy to be part of it, and I’m proud of everyone.”

The championship game wrapped up a tournament that saw many of its games have close scores. In the quarterfinals, NCU beat Sacramento State University 2-0, while PSU knocked off Northern Arizona University 1-0. In the semifinals, EWU topped PSU 2-1, while NCU upset Montana 2-1.

Williams was named the tournament’s MVP, as she, along with the team’s nine other seniors, extend their careers at EWU. The Eagles will now hit the road for the NCAA tournament. The bracket will be released on Monday at 1:30 p.m. PT on NCAA.com.

EWU head coach Chad Bodnar isn’t too worried about the team they end up facing.He’s just glad they get to keep playing.

“We kind of have an idea of what is going to happen [in the selection process],” Bodnar said. “But at this point we are just going to play wherever they put us and we are excited to be playing another week. We are alive and are still playing which was our goal.”