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Sunday, January 19, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports

Big Sky soccer tournament opens at EWU

All those October rainclouds may have a silver lining for the Eastern Washington women’s soccer team.

The Eagles finished fifth in the Big Sky Conference, but will host the postseason tournament this week after regular-season champion Idaho’s was rendered unplayable by record rainfall.

By rule, the Vandals could “host” the tournament anywhere they chose, and opted for nearby Cheney.

That was a gift for the Eagles, who went into the final week of the regular season with a chance to host anyway, but lost a 3-2 overtime match to Montana on Senior Day to drop to fifth. As fate would have it, Eastern (11-4-3 overall, 5-3-2 in the Big Sky) faces fourth-seeded Montana in a quarterfinal at 1 p.m. on the EWU soccer field.

The winner gets Idaho on Friday. The final is on Sunday, with the winner advancing to the NCAA College Cup.

In the other half of the bracket, Northern Arizona and Northern Colorado open the tournament at 10 a.m. The winner advances to play second-seed Fresno State on Friday.

“We just got to be tougher as a group,” EWU coach Chad Bodnar said after the Montana game. “We start games well, and started today’s game incredibly well, but we dropped off and gave up three unanswered goals.

Eastern has struggled down the stretch, going 1-3-1 in its last five matches. Montana is only 9-5-5 overall, but has gone 4-0-2 in its last six outings while getting four shutouts.

“If we are going to do anything in this tournament, or anything down the road, we need to get tougher and not have lulls in how we play,” Bodnar said.

Playing at home will help; EWU is 10-4-1 over the past two years on its home field.

The Eagles lead the conference in two categories, goals with 40 and corners with 113. The team is tied first in points and assists, tying Idaho in both categories with 115 and 35, respectively.

Meanwhile, Idaho hasn’t lost a match since a 2-1 setback in Cheney on Sept. 25.

The Vandals (10-4-4 overall, 7-1-2 Big Sky) celebrated Senior Day last week with a 3-0 win over Idaho State to claim their second straight regular-season title.

“Overall just really proud of our players,” UI coach Derek Pittman said. “To come out and honor our seniors and come out and put the effort in that they did today and seal up our back-to-back regular season championship within the Big Sky.”

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