Even though the Eastern Oregon University women’s soccer team entered Friday’s Cascade Collegiate Conference tournament title match likely to earn a bid to the NAIA national tournament regardless of the outcome, Jenna Jensen didn’t want to leave any doubt.
Jensen scored what proved to be the winning goal in the 60th minute — just one minute after Rocky Mountain had tied the score — and EOU won the CCC tournament for the second time in three years, holding off the Battlin’ Bears, 2-1, Friday in the championship match in Springfield to earn an automatic NAIA bid.
“I was not ready to give up. It’s my senior year. I did not want that to be my last game, and I did what I could,” Jensen said. “I didn’t want to rely on (a possible at-large bid), because there’s still a chance we wouldn’t have gotten it.”
The victory sends Eastern into the national tournament — it will learn where and who it plays during an NAIA selection show today — with momentum, as EOU (15-2-2 overall) is on a six-match winning streak.
“We had a really good tournament. All three games the ladies battled and played well, responded when they needed to, (and) set the tone when they needed to,” head coach Jacob Plocher said.
Junior forward Morgan Farrington noted that a different player scored each of the team’s six goals in the tournament, which pointed to the balance the team has on offense.
“It shows how versatile our bench is and how great we are. You can’t just mark one player,” she said.
The Mountaineers set the tone right away Friday, with Nan Kiebert scoring her 12th goal of the season just 59 seconds into the match for an early lead.
EOU outshot Rocky 17-7 on the afternoon, and 7-1 in the first half, but was unable to extend the margin. The Mountaineers faced a challenge when Lauryn Gamache, the CCC co-offensive player of the year, scored her 17th goal of the season in the 59th minute to level the match.
But Jensen, who felt she should have been awarded a penalty kick on a no-call in the goal box moments earlier, took out her frustration by scoring the go-ahead goal, the first of the season for the senior midfielder.
“I was kind of upset about it, and right after that was when they scored, so I had a lot of built-up anger,” she said. “We still had a lot of time left in the game. We scored and we held on for the last 30 minutes.”
The goal by Gamache ended a streak of five straight shutouts by the EOU defense, but Eastern heads into nationals having blanked 12 of their 19 opponents on the season.
The title marks the third year in a row Eastern has claimed either the CCC’s regular-season title or tournament title. EOU also won the tournament in 2017 and was the regular-season champion in 2017 and co-champion in 2018.
“This whole group wants it. We all wanted to go to nationals (and) want to go to (the final site in) Bama,” Farrington said.