Double overtime at the Gonzaga soccer stadium Sunday ended in the Eagles’ disappointing, but valiant shortcoming in “sudden victory.” Eastern’s Lauryn Koelzer (#13) managed to negate defenders, scoring a game-tying goal before being trumped in overtime at a final score of 2-1. A slow start gave the game a back-and-forth pace, ending the first half with zeros on the scoreboard. Gonzaga did make their presence felt, however, leading the Eagles in shots (6-1) and corner kicks (5-1) with roughly 10 minutes remaining in the first. Eastern’s Jessica Blessard had nine saves that day.
One of Blessard’s saves came early at 29:30, when Gonzaga nearly scored with a tough kick down the middle. These shots on goal persisted periodically putting pressure on the Eagles. The game ended with a distinct shot advantage with Gonzaga at 20 shots, and EWU firing just six shots at the net. The Bulldogs also controlled time of possession, although the Eags were aggressive during the last half of the final overtime.
Going into the game, Eastern (2-5-2) had reason to believe they could emerge victorious against the 5-6-0 Bulldogs, who were rebounding from a four-game losing streak. The Eagles were coming off a 1-0 win at home this past Friday against Idaho, leaving team synergy and confidence high.
“I think we had one of the best games that we’ve ever played before,” said sophomore forward Brittany Sparks, despite the loss. “We worked together well but we couldn’t connect passes that well.”
“I think they all played well in terms of the effort that they gave,” said ninth-year EWU coach George Hageage. “Obviously, when you go into double overtime it’s a long game.” Hageage is proud of his team, but also looks forward to their next opponent, WSU: “We’re going to have to buckle down and play as tough as we did today,” he commented after the game.
Sparks said, “We look forward to playing WSU, we’re ready to beat them and take them on.”
Sunday’s game registered an official attendance of 541 – the largest crowd watching any Eastern soccer game this year. There was a spirited atmosphere with red shirts and occasional chants from students along the side fence. It was optimal soccer weather at a nice 72 degrees and sunny.
Hageage said there are promising intangibles this year for the Eagles that won’t show up on a stat sheet. Newer team members are taking on roles with playing time and gaining valuable experience, and the team is really playing well. Hageage remarked, “Some of our freshmen are starting to show a little bit and make a little bit of an impact. Kylie Balstad did really well today.” Among other rising freshmen, he mentions Melanie Kitsman, Kirsten Fausko, Whitney Brannan and April Coffin as stepping up their play Sunday. The girls do not start conference play for two weeks and have time to improve on things in the meantime. “This team has come a long way since the Boise State game, so we’re pretty happy about that,” said Hageage. The team is “trying to sort out who can play and what system we can work on.” “The real season starts in two weeks,” he added.
Assigned to three consecutive road games within the state of Washington, the girls will move on to their third game against Seattle University after competing in the upcoming match against WSU. Both opponents should be tough and currently hold identical 5-2-3 records.