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EWU women’s soccer to open NCAA tournament against USC

By Jeremy Burnham, Reporter

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Last November, the EWU women’s soccer team won the Big Sky Conference championship tournament, made the NCAA Division 1 tournament,  got selected to play USC in the first round, and fell to the Trojans in Los Angeles. Skip forward one year and the Eagles have once again won the BSC tournament, and have again been selected to play USC in the first round of the NCAA tournament. This time, the Eagles will be looking for a different result.

The big difference between 2016 and 2017 is experience. The EWU team who visited USC last year was the first team in school history to be play in the tournament. This year, EWU players know what they are facing.

“The kids know the trip and know what to expect,” said EWU head coach Chad Bodnar. “Getting that first NCAA experience for all of our kids last year was obviously a big deal. Just the experience of having gone through it and knowing the culture of the whole thing, that’s all going to help us.”

USC head coach Keidane McAlpine also thinks EWU gained experience last year.

“Obviously there is a little confidence [in USC], but at the same time it’s got to be reserved,” McAlpine told The Daily Trojan. “Because every year is a little different, we’re a lot different, they are going to be different. The experience that they gained last year should pay dividends for them to be able to take the trip and know where they are staying and all the routine of coming down here to play.”

In last year’s 3-1 victory over the Eagles, USC forward Morgan Andrews had two goals, including one off of a penalty kick. Andrews is now playing professional soccer with the Boston Breakers of the National Women’s Soccer League. Devan Talley had EWU’s lone score in that game. Talley’s goal made the Eagles one of only two teams who would score on the Trojans during the tournament.

This year, USC (13-3-1) still has plenty of fire power. They are led by senior forward Alex Anthony, who leads the team in shots (56), goals (7) and points (16). Anthony was joined by three other players who scored in double digits: junior forward Leah Pruitt (14), freshman forward Tara McKeown (13) and freshman midfielder Savannah DeMelo (13).

Though USC has lost players, Bodnar knows they remain a talented program, and he says his team is excited to step up to the challenge.

“USC is quite a different team than they were last year,” Bodnar said. “They are having another stellar season again this year, but they have a lot of different players. A lot of players we faced last year were drafted into the NWSL. So they will look a little different, but we are excited.”

The Eagles (16-5-1) are led offensively by conference all-time leading scorer Chloe Williams. The senior forward had 11 goals and 25 points. She is joined by four teammates who scored in double digits: junior midfielder Jenny Chavez (15), junior forward Alexis Stephenson (11), senior midfielder Aimie Inthoulay (11) and junior forward Allison Raniere (10).

On defense, the Eagles don’t give up a ton of goals. Senior Goalkeeper Emily Busselman is 14-2-1 with 7 shutouts. Her goal against average is 0.71. She faces off against USC freshman goalkeeper Kaylie Collins. Collins is 13-3-1, with 6 shutouts. Her GAA is 0.87.

The Eagles will be playing without junior forward Devan Talley, who was injured in the conference championship game. Keeping the rest of the players healthy will be a priority for Bodnar as the Eagles practice this week.

“We are only going to train hard today [Wednesday],” Bodnar said. “It’s more about staying healthy this time of year. We are pretty banged up. We lost Devan on Sunday, so it’s just about getting there healthy.”

One thing that is not in doubt, is that the weather will be nicer in Los Angeles than it has been in Cheney. After watching his team play the last two games in the snow, Bodnar sees this as a good thing.

“It’s nice to not have to worry about weather,” Bodnar said. “It will be nice to get into some sun for sure.”

The Eagles play USC on Saturday at noon.

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EWU women’s soccer to open NCAA tournament against USC