By Matt Crump
Eastern’s women’s soccer team finished out its season with a win against Austin Peay State University 2-1 on Friday as well as a loss to Murray State University 0-1 Sunday. The game against Murray State (7-8-3, 4-3-2 OVC) was Eastern’s (7-9-3, 5-3-1 OVC) last regular season game.
The Colonels snagged the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the 2011 Ohio Valley Conference Tournament.
Last Friday, despite playing in cold, rainy conditions, Eastern’s 2-1 win against the Austin Peay Governors brought a ray of sunshine to the team. The win secured Eastern a spot in the OVC tournament.
The Colonels came out kicking, outshooting the Governors 10-3 in the first half alone. Despite the high shot count, the Colonel’s only goal the first half was a goal off the arm of one of Austin Peay’s defender in the 37th minute. Eastern held this score until the last minute of the first half, when Austin Peay snuck a shot past Wickett to tie the game.
Eastern’s defense, consisting of senior Stephanie Murray, sophomore Lauren Fant, sophomore Emily D’Italia and freshman Paige Larkin, held off the Governors for the rest of the match. Wickett had seven saves and played all 90 minutes. Austin Peay was only allowed eight shots the entire game compared to Eastern’s 20.
The Colonels’ attacks had a strong showing the second half, with shots by junior Deja Tennon, Larkin, Fant, Murray, freshman Stephany Ellison and sophomore Nicole Donnelly. But sophomore Brittany Nomady’s rebound after a blocked shot in the 85th minute gave the Colonels the push ahead they needed to win.
“I didn’t think it was going in,” Nomady said in a press release. “But I’m glad it did. I haven’t scored in a long time.”
This was Nomady’s first goal of the season.
On Sunday, Eastern battled hard against the Murray State Racers in what was one of their most physical games yet. But it was Murray players who finally followed through with their strikes after a free kick in the 73rd minute led to the only goal in the game. Shots by sophomores Fant, D’Italia, Nomady and Ellison in the last twenty minutes couldn’t bring Eastern back in the game.
“We just need to finish in the 18,” Ellison said. “We battled all game. We just need to capitalize on our opportunities.”
The Colonels had several opportunities throughout the game to score. Eastern outshot Murray 17-12, with shots just barely going over the crossbar and being taken until the final minutes of the game. Ellison led the Colonels with five shots, with Donnelly trailing behind with four shots, all on goal.
Eastern’s defense held off the Racers’ attacks for the majority of the game. Fant, D’Italia, senior Heather Bruce and Tennon held the line. Freshman goalkeeper Annie Wickett only allowed the one goal and had seven blocked shots. Wickett hasn’t allowed more than one goal per game for 12 games.
Bruce and Murray were honored before the game during the Senior Day celebration. Escorted down the line of their teammates by their parents, both seniors were given flowers and an announcer gave a brief history of their favorite moments in their soccer career.
“This year was definitely my most memorable,” Murray said of her time at Eastern. “We fought all season, and it was really great to get a record like this with this group of girls in my last year here.”
Bruce had some parting wisdom for her younger teammates.
“Work hard, stay passionate. That’s what gets you through every day,” Bruce said. “When things get hard, just make sure you always love the game, love your teammates and work for the program. That’s my best advice.”
Both seniors from Canada were honored with the playing of the Canadian National Anthem before the game.
Eastern’s next game will be in the semifinals of the OVC tournament Friday, Nov. 4, against the winner of game one, University of Tennessee at Martin vs. Eastern Illinois. In regular season play, the Colonels beat both University of Tennessee at Martin and Eastern Illinois 2-1 and 1-0, respectively.