EWU soccer picked to defend its back-to-back Big Sky titles - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

EWU soccer picked to defend its back-to-back Big Sky titles

Photo: EWU Athletics Photo: EWU Athletics

By Eastern Washington Athletics

OGDEN, Utah – The two-time defending Big Sky Conference Champions were selected to defend their title, as the Eastern Washington University soccer team was picked to finish first in the Big Sky Preseason Soccer Poll for the second-straight season, the conference announced Tuesday (Aug. 7.).
 
The poll is voted on by the league's 10 head coaches and coaches cannot vote for their own team. The Eagles totaled 78 points and captured eight of the ten first-place votes in the preseason poll. Northern Colorado was picked to finish second with 69 points and one first-place vote, while Montana came in a close third with 66 points and one first place-vote.
 
"We are excited about our team this season and it's always an honor to have other programs in our conference think highly about what we're doing. Our group is working hard and wants to continue to build on the success we've had in the past," said head coach Chad Bodnar, who is prepping for his fifth year at the helm. "We fully understand that past seasons are gone and that we have new challenges ahead. Our coaches and players also understand that it's the end of the year rankings that matter and we have to work harder than ever to stay on top of the Big Sky Conference."
 
The Eagles were picked to finish first last year for the first time in program history and they did not disappoint, winning their first Big Sky regular season title since 2004 en route to a tournament championship and their second-straight NCAA College Cup appearance. Eastern cruised through the Big Sky campaign, collecting a record of 8-1-1 in conference play and a program record 16-6-1 overall.
 
Despite losing the Big Sky's all-time leader in goals and points, Chloe Williams, along with first-team All-Big Sky selections M'Kenna Hayes and Aimie Inthoulay, the Eagles have reloaded with 18 newcomers for the 2018 season.

Eastern also has a strong veteran presence as they welcome back 16 Eagles, including seniors Alexis Stephenson, Allison Raniere and Devan Talley. The trio combined for 11 of the squad's program-record 48 goals last season. First-team All-Big Sky selection midfielder Jenny Chavez also returns for her senior season after ranking second on the team with eight goals last season. Grace Klinkenberg, who earned an Honorable Mention nod last season, will anchor the backline at centerback along with Megan Spataro who started 21 matches last season.
 
Eastern Washington opens the season with five-straight home matches, beginning on Friday, Aug. 17 against CSU Bakersfield and Sunday, Aug. 19 against Seattle U. All home matches are complimentary to the public. The 2018 Big Sky Conference Championships will be hosted by Weber State in Ogden, Utah, on Oct. 31 – Nov. 4.

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