Senior goalie Stephanie Murray (No. 1) and the rest of Eastern’s defense have stepped up their play, helping the Lady Colonels stay undefeated in conference matches. (Courtesy of ekusports.com)

By Matt Crump

Eastern’s women’s soccer remains undefeated in the Ohio Valley Conference after a tie against Jacksonville State 1-1 and a win against Tennessee Tech University 2-1 this past weekend. The Colonels (4-6-2, 2-0-1 OVC) outshot Jacksonville (2-10-2, 1-1-2 OVC) 26-16, and went neck-and-neck with Tennessee Tech (3-10-1, 0-4-0 OVC) with 11 shots each.

Eastern and Jacksonville kept each other scoreless for more than 80 minutes of regulation play. It wasn’t until the Gamecocks were awarded a penalty kick in the 84th minute that they got a shot past Colonel goalkeeper Annie Wickett.

But Eastern would not let them keep that lead. Just a minute after the goal was scored, freshman striker Stephany Ellison scored with a shot from the edge of the penalty box, tying the two teams.

“I was at the top of the 18 by myself, and Courtney [Klaas] played a great ball across,” Ellison said. “She played over a ball, and I just put it in the corner.”

The Colonels had 26 shots in the game, and despite scoring one, Coach Lindsay Basalyga had some problems with the lack of points.

“We created a lot of chances for ourselves,” she said. “We took a lot of long range chances. It’s one thing to strike a ball at goal; it’s another thing to actually be able to finish. There were moments where all we had to do was touch the ball into the back of the net. Our shot choices were a little poor for this game.”

Eastern’s defense was just as impressive. Senior Stephanie Murray, freshman Paige Larkin and sophomores Lauren Fant and Emily D’Italia helped keep the Gamecocks back for more than 80 minutes and kept them scoreless in both overtimes.  Wickett played the entire game in goal and had five saves.

“We’re learning each other’s personalities,” Wickett said about the defense. “Knowing when to step, when to drop, who’s going to fill in those roles, and when I go out for it—we’re organized.”

Eastern fared better against Tennessee Tech with a 2-1 win. Sophomore Nicole Donnelly, assisted by junior Deja Tennon, scored early in the game during the fifth minute. The Golden Eagles responded in the 29th minute with a goal, leaving the first half tied 1-1.

Determined to win, freshman striker Devon Saini scored after a rebounded shot by Fant came back out to her and she stuck it into the upper left corner of the goal.

Fant, Donnelly, senior Heather Bruce and freshman Kaylynn Brown all had two shots each.

Wickett had five saves and played all 110 minutes. The Colonels’ defense held Tennessee Tech back from scoring any other goals. Eastern stayed on top for the remainder of the game.

Last year around this time, Eastern was undefeated 3-0 in the OVC. They quickly lost that advantage and went on to lose four of the five remaining games. The Colonels are trying to not have a repeat of last season.

“We’re just looking to maintain focus,” Wickett said. “Keep getting out there for practices. We let that happen last year, and [we hope to] prevent it from happening again.”

Basalyga said she has high hopes for both conferences games this weekend.  

“We’re really happy to be home, after we’ve been on the road for three straight weeks,” Basalyga said. “It’s definitely going to be a tough conference weekend, but we’re looking forward to being back home. Hopefully we’ll pick up a few points.”

The Colonels are scheduled to play the University of Tennessee at Martin at 4 p.m. Friday and Southeast Missouri State University at 1 p.m. Sunday.