Soccer clinches sixth playoff spot

Eagles win three straight, for opportunity to repeat as champions


Mckenzie Ford

Junior Sage Lyons shoves off a Weber State defender on Oct. 12. Lyons scored the second goal in the Eagles 2-0 win against Southern Utah last Sunday.

By Jeremy Burnham, Managing Editor

On the morning of Aug. 14, the EWU soccer team got set for its final home game of the season. Things weren’t looking good for the Eagles. They were coming off back-to-back shutout losses, they had scored only a single goal in their last four games and they were on the outside of the playoff picture looking in.

“We’re not good enough right now,” EWU head coach Chad Bodnar said before the team’s final weekend of home games.

What a difference a week makes.

EWU would win its final home game of the season in an 8-1 pounding of last-place Idaho State on Oct.14. While this win improved the Eagles’ position, the team still had to finish strong in the final week of the season.

The Eagles entered the final week of play tied for the last postseason spot, but did not own the tiebreaker for that spot. Their first match of the week was a Friday night contest against second-place Northern Arizona. NAU entered the match undefeated in BSC play.

As expected, the Eagles had a harder time scoring on NAU than they did ISU, but they were able to manage a second-half goal when senior Jenny Chavez headed in a shot off of an assist by sophomore Emma Vanderhyden. The goal came from one of EWU’s two shots on goal.

Meanwhile, the EWU backline held NAU to six shots on goal, and sophomore goalkeeper Kelsee Winston turned them all aside, making six saves as EWU handed NAU its first conference loss of the season.

“We are very proud of our team for a complete performance on the road against a good opponent,” Bodnar said after the win. “Collectively, we played well and really gritted through a tough win. It’s nice to have a full group back and to see our team starting to gel at the most important time of the year.”

EWU then traveled to Cedar City, Utah to take on ninth-place Southern Utah. Again, Chavez was the hero. In the 69th minute, SUU’s Emma Leong was given a yellow card for fouling Chavez in the box. Chavez was awarded a penalty kick, which she sent sailing past SUU goalkeeper Kaitlyn Caldera. Later, EWU junior Saige Lyons added a goal and the Eagles won 2-0.

Chavez has scored in the Eagles’ last three games.

The win puts the Eagles into the postseason tournament for the fifth season in a row.

“We’re extremely proud of our team having to dig in and win three games back-to-back-to-back to qualify for another conference tournament,” Bodnar said. “I’m proud of our program because that’s five conference tournament qualifications in a row. We’ve worked extremely hard to dig ourselves out of a rough start, but we’re excited we get another opportunity to play in a week and a half.”

The Eagles are hot at the right time. They enter the tournament on a three-game win streak, they have 11 goals in the last three games and allowed only a single goal in those same three contests.

This is a major improvement from earlier in the season. Entering the match on Aug. 14, the Eagles were only averaging 0.8 goals a game. They end the season with an average of 1.28 goals per game.

Meanwhile, Winston has saved 21 of the last 22 shots on goal that she has faced. She ends the season No. 2 in the BSC with a goals-against-average of 0.72 and No. 1 with a save percentage of 0.86.

The BSC’s top six teams will now meet in Ogden, Utah for the championship tournament starting on Oct. 31.