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Area soccer notebook: Defending Big Sky Conference women’s champ Eastern Washington heats up at right time

The Eastern Washington women’s soccer team celebrates the first of three second-half goals last November at EWU. The Eagles defeated the Northern Colorado Bears 3-0 in the Big Sky Conference title match. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
The Eastern Washington women’s soccer team celebrates the first of three second-half goals last November at EWU. The Eagles defeated the Northern Colorado Bears 3-0 in the Big Sky Conference title match. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Better late than never.

The Eastern Washington women’s soccer team got hot at the end of the regular season, beating Idaho State, Northern Arizona and Southern Utah in succession to earn its fifth consecutive berth into the Big Sky Conference Tournament.

The sixth-seeded Eagles (8-7-3) will face No. 3 Northern Colorado (10-7-1, 6-2-1) on Wednesday at tournament host Weber State. The winner faces No. 2 Idaho (9-6-3, 6-1-2) in the semifinals on Nov. 2.

EWU, the defending Big Sky Tournament champion, was boosted in its late-season push by Jenny Chaves and goalie Kelsee Winston, who both earned conference player of the week honors for for their efforts.

Chaves, the Big Sky Offensive Player of the Week, had game-deciding goals against Northern Arizona and Southern Utah. She now ranks third all time in goals (22) for EWU.

Winston, the Defensive Player of the Week, posted two shutouts and tallied 14 saves in wins over NAU and Southern Utah. Winston ranks 27th nationally in save percentage (.857).

“We’re extremely proud of our team having to dig in and win three games back-to-back-to-back to qualify for another conference tournament. I’m proud of our program because that’s five conference tournament qualifications in a row,” EWU head coach Chad Bodnar said. “We’ve worked extremely hard to dig ourselves out of a rough start, but we’re excited we get another opportunity to play in a week and a half.”

Idaho had a chance to win the Big Sky regular-season title on Sunday but tied NAU in a scoreless match in Flagstaff, Arizona. Weber State (9-4-4, 7-1-1) won the league outright.

“They’re disappointed that they’re not conference champs, so they’re hunger and desire should push us and get us ready for the following week,” Idaho coach Jeremy Clevenger said.”

WSU, Gonzaga swoon after hot starts

Since winning a program-best 10 consecutive matches to start the season and being and ranked as high No. 7 in the country, the Washington State women have fallen on hard times.

The Cougars (10-5-0, 3-5-0 Pac-12) have lost five straight and have dropped out of the Top 25.

WSU ends its regular season with three home matches, beginning Thursday with struggling California (5-9-2, 1-6-1) at 7 p.m. at Lower Soccer Field.

The Gonzaga women also cooled off after winning three consecutive West Coast Conference matches.

The Bulldogs (8-4-3, 3-2-1) tied San Francisco at 1 in overtime last week before falling losing 1-0 on the road at Santa Clara.

Gonzaga, which is fifth in the 10-team WCC, ends its regular season with three home matches, including a 7 p.m. match Friday against third-place Pepperdine (9-6-1, 4-1-1).

CC Spokane wins NWAC East Region title

Community Colleges of Spokane’s women clinched a Northwest Athletic Association East Region title Wednesday, clipping rival North Idaho 1-0 in Coeur d’Alene in its regular-season finale.

Megan Wilkinson’s goal in the 49th minute was the difference for the fourth-ranked Sasquatch (12-3-4, 10-1-3). Seventh-ranked NIC (8-5-5, 8-5-3) was led by goalie Kaysha Bailey’s nine saves. The Cardinals finished second in league play.

Both teams earned berths to the NWAC championships in Tukwila, Washington, which begin Wednesday.

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