CHENEY, Wash. – The Eastern Washington University women's soccer team was crowned the Big Sky Champions for the second year in a row with a 3-0 win over No. 3 Northern Colorado on Sunday (Nov. 5). With the win, EWU improves their best record in program history to 16-5-1 overall. Two made penalty kicks from Savannah Hoekstra and Chloe Williams in the 62nd and 75th minute and Alexis Stephenson's goal in the 78th minute were all the Eagles needed to down the Bears, earning the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA College Cup.
"It feels great and our kids deserve it," head coach Chad Bodnar said. "The seniors have worked extremely hard over the last four years and the new kids have come in and also worked extremely hard. There is just confidence in this group and they have had it throughout the whole course of the year, whether the results were good or not. They have found a way to get it done and today I thought it went really well."
In the first half, EWU came out aggressive as Hoekstra dished Devan Talley a perfect pass as she found the back of the net, but she was called offsides and the goal was disallowed.
Eastern also took the first shot on goal from Allison Raniere in the sixth minute with Madeline Burdick making the save for the Bears.
Despite the Eagles having six shots on goal within the first 45 minutes of play, the game was tied at 0-0 with EWU outshooting UNC 8-1.
In the 62nd minute of the game, Hoekstra was fouled inside the box and earned a penalty kick. The senior shot the ball to the right of Burdick to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead.
Emily Busselman collected her first save of the game in the 67th minute, with a shot on goal from UNC's Kaitlyn Meeder.
Chloe Williams was fouled inside the box in the 75th minute for Eastern Washington, giving them another scoring opportunity with a penalty kick. Williams shot the ball right past Burdick to increase Eastern's lead to 2-0. The goal was the senior's 43rd career goal, extending her lead as the Big Sky All-Time leader in career goals and points (107).
The Eagles kept pressing as Emma Vanderhyden took a shot on goal in the 78th minute that bounced off the goalkeeper. Alexis Stephenson was right there to score off the deflection to seal EWU's 3-0 win.
With the three goals scored in the match, the team now holds the most goals scored in a single season with 47. The previous record was held by the 2016 squad who scored 44.
EWU outshot UNC 16-3 and had 12 shots on goal. Busselman had one save on the day to improve to 13-2-1 overall. Burdick collected nine saves for the Bears.
Northern Colorado finishes 13-7-2 overall and EWU increases their series record to 5-7-3 overall against the Bears.
Head coach Chad Bodnar earned his second win against UNC since he took over in 2014 and is now 29-7-6 at home. Bodnar is now also 2-0 in the championship game in the Big Sky Championships.
What it Means
The Eagles earn a bid in the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row. Last year, EWU traveled to No. 2 USC and fell 3-1 to the eventual National Champion.
EWU remained almost perfect at home this year with an 11-1-1 record on the home pitch.
Keys to the Game
The Eagles were aggressive throughout the entire match, taking 12 shots on goal and outshooting the Bears 16-3.
Despite not scoring in the first half, EWU came out and scored three goals in the last 45 minutes to seal their victory.
Eastern Washington was solid on defense as they only allowed one shot on goal from UNC.
Chloe Williams and Savannah Hoekstra were both successful in penalty kicks to help give EWU a 2-0 lead late in the second half.
Alexis Stephenson was the other Eagle to score, extending Eastern's lead to 3-0.
Williams also led the team with five shots, four of them being on goal. Allison Raniere was right behind her with three shots and two on goal.
On being tied 0-0 at halftime and the elements of weather: "We came out in a different shape not knowing how the surface would be. Credit to our grounds crew on coming out and plowing the field and making it super playable, it made for a good final. We came out and played a little more conservative in the first half. I thought we played very well and UNC's goalkeeper made some good saves in the first half. We talked at halftime and said when we break the ice, we will get a couple goals and getting the penalties were huge. I thought the team played well the whole game."
On getting the 2-0 lead: "Our backline and goalkeeping was really good today especially on this surface. But I give the credit to our depth because Alexis came in and sparked our offense with her efforts. She works really hard for every goal she scores. Savannah also played really well today. I thought a lot of kids came off the bench and played well. I am extremely proud of the kids."
On selection for the NCAA Tournament: "We kind of have an idea of what is going to happen, 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 this week."
EWU advances to the NCAA Tournament with the bracket coming out tomorrow, Nov. 6, at 1:30 p.m. Pacific Time.