Observer staff

For the second time in three years, the Eastern Oregon women’s soccer team saw its season end with a close first-round loss in the NAIA National Championships.

Westmont’s Maddi Berthoud scored the difference-making goal in the 26th minute, and the ninth-ranked Warriors made the early tally stand up in a 1-0 win over the Mountaineers Saturday afternoon in Santa Barbara, California.

“We stuck with them. I think the second half was more in our favor,” head coach Jacob Plocher said. “We weren’t quite good enough (Saturday) to get it done, but we’re still right there with that group (of quality teams).”

The score matched that of EOU’s only other national appearance, a 1-0 home loss to Biola in the first round of the 2015 postseason.

Berthoud put in a short goal on a cross from teammate Bri Johnson. It was just the second goal given up by EOU in the last 11 games.

It proved to be enough. EOU struggled to generate offense, taking just six shots and putting only two shots on goal, both of which were stopped by Westmont goalkeeper Gabi Haw. The Warriors, by comparison, took 14 shots and put four on goal, three of which were saved by EOU keeper Cydni Cottrell.

Morgan Farrington and Chelsey Nicol gave EOU the best opportunity for an equalizer late in the first half with the team’s lone shots on frame in the closing minutes. Mariana Madrigal saw two opportunities go wide in the second half. In the closing minutes, Yasmin Mookerdum had a shot blocked by a defender and Taylor Boyer saw an attempt sail high.

EOU’s season ends at 13-4-2 overall, a record that will go down as the second-best mark in program history behind the 2015 team’s 17-3-1 mark.

But the 2017 squad did what the team two years ago didn’t — win the regular season Cascade Collegiate Conference title and the CCC tournament title.

“They worked hard. They set the goals that they wanted to accomplish,” Plocher said. “We achieved things that we weren’t expected to. I told the group we’ve set the foundation. We know what the standard is.”