To say the Eastern Oregon women’s soccer team is on a roll is an understatement.
Five straight wins. A 9-0-1 record in the last 10 matches. Eight of those victories, including the last five, all by shutout.
The result of the lengthy streak? A second straight Cascade Collegiate Conference title and national tournament berth.
Taylor Boyer scored the lone goal early in the second half as Eastern blanked Corban Friday, 1-0, then Boyer and MacKinley Gregus both scored in the Mountaineers’ 2-0 win over Northwest Christian Sunday in the regular season finale.
“This (conference title is) definitely a little bit sweeter in my opinion, because of how we were able to take it back and get the result we wanted,” EOU Head Coach Jacob Plocher said, referring to Eastern’s 0-1-1 start in conference play. “It was definitely a bigger battle. It was more rewarding.”
The victories put Eastern’s CCC record at 9-1-2. Either Carroll or Southern Oregon, who are both 7-1-2, could theoretically tie the Mountaineers in their final weekend of play and share the title, but EOU already owns the head-to-head tiebreaker for the top seed over SOU thanks to a 2-0 win earlier in the season. The Mountaineers and Saints tied on the field, 3-3, back in September, but the next tiebreaker — goals allowed in CCC play — goes to EOU. Eastern has given up just eight goals in conference action, while Carroll has allowed 11 with two matches remaining. SOU and Carroll face off Oct. 28 in Helena, Montana.
The Mountaineers were in control of both games this weekend, though the scoreboard Friday against Corban didn’t indicate that reality with the match scoreless after one half. EOU had a handful of chances turned away, while the opportunities for the Warriors missed altogether.
“It was one of those things (where) we were dominating the whole game,” Boyer said. “We had our opportunities and were strong defensively, but we couldn’t put one in the back of the net. Soccer’s cruel, so sometimes that’s how it goes. But (I’m) happy we were able to get one in and get the win we needed.”
Plocher said, in fact, the first half was one of the better halves played by his squad in recent weeks.
“We just had to be more balanced with our attack and how we built it up, but I felt from start to finish it was one of the best games we’d played in a while,” he said. “It was good to see that energy.”
Boyer got Eastern on the scoreboard less than four minutes into the second half, taking a pass over the top from Abri Cardenas and putting a shot home from about 15 yards out.
“I think it took a little bit of a lucky bounce, and sometimes that’s all you need,” Boyer said.
The defense, which took a couple lumps early in the season, did the rest. The Mountaineers, who earlier had a four-match stretch where they allowed nine goals, have now surrendered just three goals during the current 10-match unbeaten streak. In fact, the Warriors were the third team during the run not to register an official shot on goal on the EOU defense.
“We’ve finally got the chemistry,” senior defender Chelsey Nicol said. “Coming in with two new outside backers was a really big change for us, but we’re finally connecting.”
Plocher also commented on the growth of the defense, adding the new players to the back line have stepped into their roles.
“We knew it was going to take a little bit,” he said. “We gave up a few goals a little earlier and that hurt us, but we’ve worked through it. They have been jelling a lot more. We’ve put some pressure on them, called them out, and we’ve tried to put some big responsibility on their shoulders and they stepped up to that.”
The dominance was on display even more Sunday when EOU registered a 30-4 shot advantage as it sewed up the CCC’s top seed.
Boyer scored in the 33rd minute — her 13th goal of the season — as the offensive barrage finally broke through against the Beacons.
Gregus netted her 10th goal in the 66th minute to ice the contest. Val Gaffney, who played the first half in goal, registered saves on NCU’s only two shots on goal.
Katie Hastings had 14 saves to keep the Beacons in the match.
The Mountaineers (13-1-2 overall, 9-1-2 CCC) are off until Nov. 7 when they begin the CCC tournament in Springfield.
“We’ve peaked at the right time,” Nicol said. “We’ve all come together, we’ve stayed close as a team all throughout the season, and we’re ready to go into the playoffs.”