Panthers welcome big challenge from Conference-USA opponents

Dominic Renzetti, Assistant Sports Editor

The Eastern women’s soccer team, currently sitting at 0-2 after the first weekend of non-conference play, has two big challenges coming to Charleston this weekend in Marshall and Louisiana Tech.

Marshall and Louisiana Tech, both of Conference-USA, will each be facing Eastern for the first time, but Panthers’ head coach Jason Cherry is familiar with both opponents.

Cherry coached at East Carolina in 2011 as an assistant when the Pirates advanced to the Conference-USA tournament semi-finals. The win in the regular season that clinched the tournament spot for East Carolina? Marshall, with a 2-1 win on senior night.

Cherry knows Marshall is going to be a challenge for Eastern at 1 p.m. Friday at Lakeside Field, but the Thundering Herd have already had their own challenges this season.

Marshall opened the season with an exhibition against No. 5 Virginia Tech, losing 4-0 at home. Things did not get much easier last weekend, going on the road against No. 3 Virginia where they lost 3-0. Marshall then played to a 3-3 draw against Virginia Commonwealth on Sunday.

“They’re big, physical, direct, very athletic,” Cherry said. “So they’re going to stretch us and challenge us, which I think is a good game for us.”

Senior forward Kristine Culicerto, who scored two of Marshall’s three goals against VCU, leads Marshall. Red-shirt junior Lizzie Kish has started the last 22 matches in goal for the Thundering Herd, including the first two this season against Virginia and VCU. Kish has made eight saves so far this season.

For Eastern, Cherry said junior Emily Hinton would get the start in goal this weekend. Hinton made 10 saves in Eastern’s first two losses against Northern Kentucky and Indiana State.

“The plan is right now Emily Hinton will be in goal and we’ll take it game by game,” he said. “Right now she’s our No. 1 and we’re still evaluating this week and we’re evaluating every day.”

For Louisiana Tech, who comes to Lakeside Field at 1 p.m. Sunday, Cherry knows head coach Kevin Sherry from his connections to Western Illinois. Sherry coached at Western in 2005 and 2006, before Cherry arrived as an assistant coach in 2008.

Sherry led Western to its fist ever winning season and has the highest winning percentage of any Western coach in program history. He’s now entering his eighth season at Louisiana Tech.

Louisiana Tech opened its season with a 2-2 draw against Central Arkansas, but went on to win its last two matches over Troy and Louisiana College.Louisiana Tech won 4-2 over Troy, and then rolled to an 8-0 win over Louisiana College.

Louisiana Tech has three players with two goals each so far this season in junior Brittany Beddow, sophomore Kailee Harvey and red-shirt senior Taylor Dennis.

Sherry has started a total of three different goalkeepers in each of the team’s first three matches. Sophomore Kylee Seto saw the most minutes with 115, appearing in two of the team’s first three matches. Louisiana Tech’s other two goalkeepers are red-shirt freshman Faith Washington and freshman Anna Lensing.

Knowing the challenge at hand, Eastern senior Madison Carter said she knows what to expect and is excited for the weekend’s matches.

“We’ve heard they’re both pretty good,” she said. “We’ve never had them before, it’s a new match between both of us. It’s a long trip down for both of them, but we’re pretty excited for both of them.”

After two matches and a full week of practice and classes, Carter said she likes the way things are falling into place for the Panthers.

“Everything’s coming together really nicely,” she said. “We’re just hoping to pull out two wins this weekend.”

Both games have 1 p.m. start times, with Marshall on Friday and Louisiana Tech on Sunday at Lakeside Field. Also at Lakeside Field this weekend, Louisiana Tech takes on Lewis at 4 p.m. Friday.

Dominic Renzetti can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]