For Cassie Black, the best way to put team first is to be a little more selfish.
And so far this season, the Eastern Washington women’s soccer team is reaping the reward. Black’s unassisted goal in the 51st minute in a 2-1 win Sunday over Idaho State is her third winner of the season and fifth overall, and helped the Eagles (4-5-1) win their fourth match in their last five.
Along the way, the sophomore from Battle Ground, Wash., has won two consecutive Big Sky Conference player of the week awards by playing to her strength, even if she needed a little prodding.
“My strength is probably my speed, slashing at the diagonals and getting behind the defenders,” said Black, part of a big group of underclassmen on coach George Hageage’s squad.
“It’s a great group,” said Hageage, in his 13th season. “They help each other out and they’re very unselfish.”
The trouble was, so was Black, who sometimes looked too eager to pass.
“We tweaked a few things and opened things up for her,” Hageage said. “We’ve made her a bit more selfish.”
The payoff came in a 3-1 win over Boise State in the Portland State tournament on Sept. 9 in Hillsboro, Ore., against a team the Eagles had never beaten. Black scored the opener, and with the clock ticking down, scored again for an emphatic 3-1 win.
Until then, the Eagles were winless, although Hageage took encouragement from a scoreless draw at Air Force on Aug. 31.
“Last year, we would have found a way to lose it,” said Hageage, whose club has already doubled the win total of last year’s 2-12-1 team.
A case in point: Sunday’s game, when Idaho State scored 22 seconds into the match, that coming two days after the Eagles lost their conference opener to Weber State.
“The message we have been preaching is how to face adversity,” Hageage said. “That was adversity – giving up a really simple ball so early in the game and suddenly they put it in the back of the net.”
But 24 minutes later, Black passed to Kasey McNeill, whose second goal of the season helped the Eagles to a 1-1 tie at halftime.
Six minutes after intermission, Black connected.
“Cassie’s goal could not have been more perfect,” Hageage said. “She blasted it and put it perfectly on frame. She has been working hard and she is doing well, so it was great to see her get a goal like that.”
Washington State: Gurveen Clair made seven saves in a scoreless tie at UCLA, moving her into sixth place on the Cougars’ career list for saves with 112. “Any time you can come into a top-five opponent’s house and come out with a result, you’ve got to be proud,” head coach Keidane McAlpine said. “The intensity level was good for the entire 90 (minutes) plus the overtime. We finally put it all together.” On Sunday, at 23rd-ranked Santa Clara, the Cougars (6-2-1) gave up three second-half goals in a 3-0 loss.
Idaho: With a 1-0 win over Utah Valley State on Friday, the Vandals’ 10 seniors stamped themselves as the most successful in school history with their 34th win. Erica Hart scored the winner in the 65th minute. Idaho lost 1-0 at Nevada-Las Vegas on Sunday, falling to 3-9 entering Western Athletic Conference play Friday at Texas State.
Whitworth: The Pirates remained unbeaten in the Northwest Conference following a 2-0 win at Pacific on Sunday. Mackenzie Grow scored her second goal of the weekend to help Whitworth improve to 5-4 overall and 5-0 in the NWC. A day earlier, Grow’s overtime goal lifted the Pirates to a 1-0 win at George Fox.
Gonzaga: The Bulldogs (5-5) were idle last weekend and are coming off back-to-back losses at Oregon State and Oregon two weekends ago. They host Nevada on Sunday.
Gonzaga: Forward Nate Pacheo is the West Coast Conference player of the week after he helped to Bulldogs to a pair of wins at the Nike Soccer Classic hosted by Oregon State. Pacheco scored the eventual winner in a 2-1 win over UC Irvine, then scored the opening goal in Gonzaga’ 3-2 double-overtime win over Wisconsin-Green Bay. The Bulldogs open WCC play today at Portland.
Whitworth: Samuel Engle scored twice to lead the Pirates to a 2-0 win at Pacific, improving their record to 7-0-1 overall and 4-0 in the Northwest Conference. The win was the seventh shutout in eight matches for the Pirates, ranked 11th in the Division III national poll. Goalkeeper Kyle Novak had to make just one save to keep his season goals-against average at 0.00. A day earlier, Robbie Ubben’s first-half goal was enough for a 1-0 win at George Fox. The Pirates will host Pacific Lutheran and and Puget Sound, both 4-0 in the NWC, this weekend.