Panthers open conference schedule with confidence

Dominic Renzetti , Assistant Sports Editor

The Eastern women’s soccer team beat six Ohio Valley Conference teams last season and neither of them were Southeast Missouri or Southern Illinois-Edwardsville.


The Panthers open OVC play this weekend with a pair of matches against teams who beat them in 2013, starting with Southeast Missouri at 3 p.m. Friday and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville at 1 p.m. Sunday. Both matches are at Lakeside Field.


Eastern head coach Jason Cherry said last year’s 4-0 loss to Southeast Missouri was certainly one match the Panthers admittedly weren’t prepared for.


“I remember we didn’t come off the bus,” Cherry said. “A 4-0 game, that was kind of hard to take. That was part of that weekend where we started on our downswing again.”


Eastern had lost its previous match that week to Tennessee-Martin and the followed the Southeast Missouri loss with another loss against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville.


The Redhawks got off to a quick start, scoring four goals in the 22nd, 25th, 38th and 40th minute.


“Definitely a match we didn’t come out to play in,” junior forward Hannah Miller said.


Miller scored both goals in Eastern’s 2-0 win last Sunday over Chicago State, giving the Panthers their first win of the year. Miller said the win heading into the OVC schedule is a definite confidence boost for the team.


Cherry said the Redhawks are a very competitive opponent to play.


“They’re quick, they’re athletic, they’ll go at you,” he said.


Cherry said Southeast Missouri is a team that when they win the ball will try to release its outside back to be the outlet in its attack, as well as play short and quick on set pieces and corner kicks; both things that Cherry said the Panthers will be ready for.


The Panthers will have to be ready without goalkeeper Kylie Morgan, who was injured against Valparaiso. Cherry said Morgan is still being evaluated with her shoulder injury and will continue to see a doctor later this week.


“She’s going to be out for a little while, which is unfortunate for her,” he said.


With Morgan out, junior Emily Hinton retakes the reigns, coming off her first career win and shutout over Chicago State.


Sunday’s contest against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville will be a rematch of the Panthers’ first-round OVC tournament loss from last year.


The Panthers and Cougars played once in the regular season and once in the tournament last year and then once more in the spring. Each time, the Cougars came out on top with a 2-1 win. This weekend will be different, Cherry said.


“We’re going to beat them,” he said. “I think our girls are ready for it. We’re going to bring it.”


Miller said Southern Illinois-Edwardsville is a team the Panthers are tired of losing to.


“I feel like they’re probably our top rival, just someone we really want to beat for once,” she said. “They’ve beat us like three times in the past year. It’s always a tough, hard game when we play them.”


The Panthers have a unique OVC slate this season where every team they play has just one match over the weekend, while the Panthers have two. Cherry said he wants to use this to the team’s advantage against the Cougars.


“I know it’s their only game of the weekend, it’s our second, but we don’t look at that as a disadvantage, but an advantage that we’re already playing and loose and ready to go,” he said. “We’re hoping that we catch them thinking that we’re going to be tired and we’re going to bring it to them.”


The Panthers opened conference last season with two wins, one over Belmont in overtime and then a 4-2 win over Tennessee Tech. The top six finishing teams make the OVC tournament, with the No. 1 seed hosting. The winner of the tournament gets an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The first round of the OVC tournament is set to begin Nov. 6.


Dominic Renzetti (DomRenzetti) can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].