CHENEY, Wash. – The Gonzaga University women’s soccer team began the 2013 campaign with a 1-0 victory over Eastern Washington University Friday at the EWU Sports and Recreation Center Soccer Field in Cheney, Wash. Sophomore midfielder Mikayla Anderson tallied the game-winning goal to allow the Bulldogs to win their opening match of the season for the fifth-consecutive year.
“It’s exciting to open up with a win on the road,” explained Gonzaga head coach Amy Edwards, who is in her fifth year at the helm. “We knew the match would be a little bit messy on the surface and we were possibly going to change our style of play, which we did, and I think we adapted fairy well.”
The Zags had five great scoring opportunities in the first 12 minutes of play, including three by freshman midfielder Ashley Aberton.
Aberton hit the cross bar in the sixth minute after classmate Karley Baggerly worked tirelessly to get a cross into the box and sophomore forward Heather Johnson followed with a header, off a corner kick, that had the pace to score, but went high three minutes later.
Eastern Washington’s best scoring chance came in the 24th minute when Cassie Black was able to redirect a cross with her head that forced Gonzaga keeper sophomore Christie Tombari to dive to her left for the save that preserved the 0-0 tie.
Gonzaga finally broke the goal line at 40:35 on a play started by freshman defender Sarah Carter. The Bonney Lake, Wash., native served a ball out of the back that classmate Aliyah Miller flicked on with her head to the middle of the box. Anderson got to the ball and was able to make a move to her right and slid a shot to the back left corner of the net for the goal.
“We are looking for from Sarah create out of that center back spot,” stated Edwards. “To see Aliyah’s athleticism pay off with the challenge in the air and Mikayla’s timing of her run to get behind and her composure to finish it was textbook. I thought we scored a really good goal.”
The Bulldogs then used their depth to help lock up the win, as 20 total players saw action, and seven players off the bench recorded double-figure minutes.
“A positive note during the match was the amount of players we were able to get into the game,” Edwards said. “Just to see the depth this team has has me very optimistic. To see Kelly [Bieraugel] add to us up front was really nice and then Aliyah in action in her first game after missing the exhibition and Silah [Tuiofea] being back and able to give us a few minutes was great.”
Edwards was also extremely pleased with her defense securing the shutout.
“It can be a little bit rattling for our back to sustain that type of pressure with long services and constantly chasing things down but I thought the defense was really solid,” stated Edwards. “EWU plays direct, and it knocks it and tries to get behind the defense with some of their pace but we have solid pace as well and handled it quite well.”
The Eagles did have a scoring opportunity in the final 10 seconds of the match that the Zag defense and Tombari handled well. Gonzaga was called for a foul outside the 18-yard box with 29 seconds and a bit of chaos ensued. Tombari was able to get the Zag wall in place and herself set prior to EWU getting the shot off. Haley Stading took the shot as the final 10 seconds passed, but her chance hit straight into the Gonzaga wall.
“Christie was composed on every shot, including in the end when she had to be ready on that free kick,” said Edwards.
Gonzaga ended the match with the 12-8 advantage on shots and the 6-4 edge in corner kicks. Tombari, playing in her first collegiate match, finished with three saves.
The Bulldogs return to action Friday, Aug. 30 when they play at the University of Tulsa; Edwards alma mater. Match time is set for 5:35 p.m.