Freshman midfielder Alex Hess fights with UT Martin’s Kelly Ann Hutchinson for ball control. Eastern has struggled on offense, scoring just three goals in their last nine games. (Photo Submitted)

By Hamzah Khan

On a road trip this past week, Eastern’s women’s soccer team dropped a match to top-conference rival Tennessee-Martin, but picked up a draw against Murray State. Still, the team has struggled to find the goal: the Colonels haven’t scored a goal in four consecutive games. Lindsay Basalyga, Eastern’s head coach, said the lack of goals was disappointing, but she was satisfied with the overall performance.

“We have the right build-up play,” Basalyga said. “But sometimes we force shots.”

Eastern (4-9-3, 1-2-3 OVC) entered the match against UT Martin in erratic form.

In its previous matches, the team lost 3-0 to Francis Marion, but managed a draw against former conference leaders Morehead State on the road. UT Martin (7-5-0, 4-1-0 OVC), meanwhile, allowed just two goals in the team’s previous five matches.

UT Martin scored within two minutes thanks to freshman Kendyl Wilson, who curled a shot past Eastern’s goalkeeper Stephanie Lynch. Eastern took back command of the match, dominating possession for long spells.

In the first half, the Colonels managed to outshoot Martin 12-5, but only four of these shots caused Martin’s keeper to make saves.

At the 35 minute mark, Wilson doubled Martin’s lead, burying another shot. UT Martin kept the pressure on in the second half, taking five corner kicks and forcing Lynch to save four shots.

Basalyga said the early goals made it difficult for her team.

“We just dug ourselves in a hole,” Basalyga said. “It’s going to be hard to pick up results while trailing in games.”

The victory put Martin within reach of conference leader Morehead State. The Colonels, however, remained winless on the road.

Earlier in the season, Basalyga acknowledged the team’s inability to convert chances in front of goal, recalling key conference games against Austin Peay and Tennessee Tech where they outshot their opponents but failed to capitalize.

“We can outshoot teams,” Basalyga said. “But we’ve had bad luck in front of goal and not the best shot selection.”

On average, Eastern is scoring just one goal for every 17 shots taken by the team, ranking the team second to the bottom in conference scoring.

Eastern’s goal drought continued against Murray State (5-7-2, 3-2-1 OVC).

The Racers came off a narrow 2-1 loss to conference leader Morehead State, and a win against Eastern could have tied them for second place in the standings. Murray State also had not blanked any opposing team’s scorers, always allowing at least one goal. But Eastern failed to keep that streak alive.

The first half opened up evenly as both teams battled for possession. The best chance for scoring in the first half came when Murray State’s corner found Maja Nordahl, who hit the top crossbar.

In the second half, Eastern keeper Stephanie Lynch safely collected the ball on a one-on-one with Murray State sophomore Rachel Wright.

Two minutes later, the framework once again saved Eastern as Wright was denied a goal by the post. Wright’s attempt was one of 11 shots Murray State took in the second half.

The Colonels pushed on for a goal late in the match, requiring Murray keeper Tara Isbell to go full stretch and parry the shot out of play. It would present the best opportunity for Eastern to win in regulation.

Eastern and Murray entered sudden-death overtime, as neither team was able to convert any scoring chances. In the first period, both teams mustered a shot apiece, neither scoring.

The second half looked better offensively for Eastern, which took three shots and forced a save. Meanwhile, Eastern’s defense stifled the Racers, allowing no shots.

“Murray State is one of the better teams we play,” Basalyga said. “It was an exciting game.”

With the tie, Eastern shared a point, solidifying their position in the middle of the OVC rankings.

This week, the Colonels enjoy a two-game home stay, taking on Eastern Illinois on Friday and then matching up with Southeast Missouri State University on Sunday, which is also Senior Day.