Arguably one of the best — if not the best — seasons in the history of the Eastern Oregon women’s soccer program has come to an end.
Second-ranked William Carey, which entered play Tuesday as the second-most prolific scoring team in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, scored three goals in the second half to pull away from the No. 20 Mountaineers, 3-0, Tuesday morning in Orange Beach, Alabama.
“I think that’s where some of their experience (at nationals) came in and our inexperience got the best of us,” EOU Head Coach Jacob Plocher said of the second half.
The Mountaineers, who were making their first-ever appearance in the NAIA’s second round, hung with last year’s national semifinalist through a tight first half that ended with the teams in a scoreless tie. The teams combined to take just nine shots, and EOU’s Kaitlyn McLeod had the only shot on goal.
“We battled with them back and forth,” Plocher said. “Things were close. We had some opportunities (and) they had some opportunities.”
The second half, though, was all Crusaders.
Kelly Stubbington scored an unassisted goal in the 49th minute to give WCU the lead for good. Shantel Thompson and Silvia Leonessi — half of the Crusaders four players to reach double digit goals this season — scored in the 57th and 68th minutes, respectively, to put the game out of reach.
During the second half, WCU amped up its offense, taking nine of its 10 shots on goal while Cydni Cottrell recorded six saves.
The Mountaineers did register four shots on goal, but all were stopped by WCU keeper Abby Baravik.
The Mountaineers finish with a record of 16-3-2, one win shy of the program record set in 2015. Eastern, however, claimed its second consecutive Cascade Collegiate Conference championship, earned the program’s first-ever national ranking and advanced further in the playoffs than the 2015 team did.
“We just talked about how, the past two years, we’ve set the standard for EOU soccer moving forward,” Plocher said.