CHENEY, WA— The Eastern Washington University Eagles are the Champions of the Big Sky Tournament after they beat Northern Arizona in penalty kicks on Sunday. The match was tied 1-1 going into kicks from the mark. The Eagles took the PK round 4-3.
Northern Arizona went up 1-0 on a goal from Ali Lixandru in the 41st minute. The Eagles got even on a rebound strike from Jenny Chavez in the 49th.
Eastern now looks forward to place in the NCAA post season.
The EWU offense took control of the match in the first half, working early and often on the NAU side of the pitch. Eastern put up shot after shot including a would-be bicycle kick goal by Devan Talley that was called offsides. But the Lumberjacks goalkeeper held the Eagles off the board in the first period by recording two saves on 10 EWU shots. The first period would not conclude with a 0-0 score, however, as Northern Arizona earned a penalty kick in the 41st minute after a foul inside the box. Ali Lixandru would make the shot and give NAU a 1-0 lead going into half.
With the second period underway, Eastern did not wait long to match Northern Arizona’s score with an equalizer in the 49th minute. Off a corner from junior Chloe Williams, the ball popped up and out to sophomore Jenny Chavez in front of the goal, who whipped the ball past the defenders and into the net. With a 1-1 tie, the match slowed down and would eventually head into overtime.
Both teams came into overtime playing tough, and the offenses would stay off the board through both overtime periods. The game would be sent to a championship-deciding penalty kick shootout. The Lumberjacks got the first shot, and senior goalkeeper Mallory Taylor made the correct read on a diving save. Chavez would nail the Eagles’ first attempt, and from here the teams would trade makes until the fifth and final attempt by NAU. With EWU leading the shootout 4-3, Northern Arizona missed its final attempt high and Eastern Washington became Big Sky champions.
“I thought the kids fought hard all week,” said head coach Chad Bodnar. “To be a five seed and have to play three games under the amount of pressure the tournament brings, I’m extremely proud of them.”
Eastern Washington’s record moves to 13-4-4, while Northern Arizona moves to 10-7-5.
What it Means
Eastern stood strong and defended its home field in the championship round of the BSC tournament by winning the title in its first championship appearance. The season will continue, and the team will get an opportunity to prove itself on the national stage at the NCAA DI tournament for the first time in the program’s 19-year history.
Keys to the Game
The EWU backline of M’Kenna Hayes, Megan Spataro, Laci Rennaker, and Allison Raniere came up big in the postseason once again. They completely shut down the NAU offense, limiting the Lumberjacks to only four total shots and two on goal through 110 minutes of action.
Jenny Chavez scored the lone goal for Eastern that sent the team into overtime and PKs. She finished the match with six shots, two on goal. She also hit the team’s first penalty kick.
Mallory Taylor kept the Lumberjacks scoreless outside of a penalty kick, finishing the game with one save.
The match might have never made it into the shootout if EWU had not taken advantage of a corner kick opportunity in the 49th minute. Chavez converted the unassisted goal after a corner kick was headed in her direction and she was able to slice the defense with a quick kick towards the net.
The Eagle offense pounded NAU’s defense, putting up a total of 23 shots and 10 on goal through four periods.
Chloe Williams was awarded the Big Sky Tournament Most Valuable Player honor. She had one goal and one assist on 12 shots in the three games.
This was the second straight BSC Championship that was decided by a penalty kick shootout, after Northern Colorado defeated Sacramento State in a similar situation last season.
After a 19-year drought without a postseason win, EWU finished the Big Sky tournament with its first postseason win, championship appearance, and Big Sky championship title.
Jenny Chavez scored her fifth goal of the season, improving her point total to 11.In her career she has nine goals and 19 points.
Mallory Taylor and the backline completed the tournament with two shutouts, first against Montana in the quarterfinals and then Idaho in the semifinals. Through all three games the defense only allowed one goal on a penalty kick. Taylor had nine saves and played every minute.
On winning championship at home: “It’s great to do it in front of your own fans, students that are here, and staff that works with the kids all year long. They all got to see it and be a part of it, and that’s special.”
On penalty kicks: “We worked on it every day throughout the last couple weeks. Before we went out I told them to just put your head down and hit it where you want to hit it and be confident, and I think that’s what they did today.”
Quotes from the Players
On conference title and NCAA tournament: “It’s a surreal feeling; everything is so overwhelming right now. We’ve worked so hard all season and offseason, so just being able to be here right now and being able to celebrate just feels great. It’s great having at least another week with our seniors, and it’s awesome not having to say goodbye to them yet.”
On winning championship at home: “Having people out here that I know, my family and friends representing my home town is a great feeling, and making school history is awesome.”
On team’s win after PKs: “It is an image I will replay forever in my head. It is such a sweet moment, and such a blessing to have this opportunity with my teammates.
The Eagles will be on the road for the first round of the NCAA Division I Women’ Soccer Championship starting on Friday, Nov. 11. The site of the first round game is not yet determined.
Tomorrow on Monday, Nov. 7 the NCAA selection show to announce the bracket will be on NCAA.com at 1:30 p.m. Pacific Time.
For more information, and exclusive content, on the Eastern Washington soccer team, follow @EWUSoccer on Twitter.