The buzzword surrounding this year’s edition of Eastern Washington Women’s Soccer? Attack, attack, and attack some more.
After their best finish since 2009 at 6-8-4, EWU will look to attack more consistently in 2013 leading to more shots, and more shots lead to more scoring chances.
“Simply put, we need to get more shots,” Eastern head coach George Hageage said.
Leading Eastern’s offensive attack is junior forward Cassie Black. The Battle Ground, Wash., native earned All-Big Sky Second Team honors last season scoring eight goals while adding a pair of assists. She put away a school-record four game-winning goals last year and was the only player in the Big Sky to notch a hat trick in 2012, Black will be the focal point of EWU’s potent attack.
Senior forward Siara Byers, who accounted for two scores last season, also returns, as do goal-scorers Caitlin Hepworth, Torri Sitzman, Haley Stading, Alisha Stott and Kayla Sutter.
The Eagles also return a strong defensive unit highlighted by junior goalkeeper Nathalie Schwery. Hailing from Switzerland, Schwery split time last year with former goalkeeper Jamie Walker, seeing action in nine games.
Schwery will be commanding a backline that includes returning starters in senior Brianna Brannan and juniors Sutter and Jessica Wallace.
Wallace and Sutter started all 18 of EWU’s matches with Brannan earning All-Big Sky Second Team honors. This despite breaking her leg near the end of the season, cutting her year short.
Eastern’s midfield also appears solid as junior Stading and senior Katy Allen lead a group of players looking to make an impact.
Allen earned All-Big Sky Honorable Mention honors last year after starting 13 matches.
“We have a good core of returning players,” Hageage said. “It’s a good feeling when you know you’re going to have leadership coming from both your juniors and your seniors.”
The Eagles also welcome back a group of sophomores trying to earn a spot in the lineup. They include Taylor Berdar, Rachel Robertson, Shayla Weiler, Hepworth and Stott. All five played at least 10 games last year.
“We have a nice sophomore class that didn’t get much time on the field last year,” Hageage said. “I’m really looking for a couple of them to step up.”
While perhaps not in line for a large amount of playing time, this year’s freshman class has the look of a group that will develop into a solid unit in the years to come.
Two new goalkeepers, Clara Elsholz and Courtney Young, will give Eastern different options in the net. Midfielders Paige Gallaway and Hailie McClure, along with defender Laci Rennaker, also look to see time.
“I think this year’s group of freshman has the potential to be really good,” Hageage said. “It’s just a matter of when that’s going to happen.
Eastern will be tested with a strong nonconference schedule that includes in-state rivals Gonzaga, Seattle and Washington State, with road trips to Nevada, Idaho and North Dakota State round out the nonleague slate.
EWU opens its season with Gonzaga and Seattle at home this weekend. They meet GU Firday, Aug. 23 at 4 p.m. and SU Sunday, Aug. 25 at 1 p.m.
“It’s important to play a tough nonconference schedule in order to prepare for the rigors of the Big Sky,” Hageage said. “We have so many quality teams in our area that it makes scheduling relatively simple.”