Eastern women’s soccer team sets highest win total in six years


Adam Tumino

Eastern’s women’s soccer team celebrates a tournament win on Oct. 11 against Southeast Missouri at Lakeside Field. The Panthers’ won six games this season, their highest total since 2013.

Adam Tumino, Women's Soccer Reporter

The Eastern women’s soccer team’s season may have ended on Friday in the OVC semifinals, but it was a comeback season for the program. 

The Panthers reached the OVC Tournament for the first time since 2013 and advanced to the semifinal round for the first time since 2010. They then lost 1-0 to reigning champion Murray State, who beat Tennessee-Martin on Sunday to advance to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year. 

The 2018 season for the Panthers was largely defined by defense and goalkeeping, especially in conference play.
Eastern allowed 24 goals all season, tied for the fifth fewest in the OVC. Only seven of those goals were surrendered in conference play during the regular season. Only one team, Tennessee-Martin, allowed fewer goals to OVC opponents. 

Individually, Eastern senior defender/midfielder Kate Olson and junior defender Lindsey Carlson were given OVC Defensive Player of the Week honors during the regular season. Carlson was given the honor twice. 

Junior goalkeeper Sara Teteak was given OVC Goalkeeper of the Week honors for the same week as Olson, and Teteak was named to the All-OVC second team after the season. 

Junior defender Henar Urtega was named to the All-OVC first team, becoming the first Eastern women’s soccer player to be named to the first team since 2013. 

But on the offensive side, Eastern only scored seven goals in conference play, which was the second fewest in the conference. 

And while their 18 total goals during the regular season were tied for the sixth most in the OVC, Eastern averaged the fewest shots per game and the fewest shots on goal per game in the conference this season. 

But overall, the season was seen as a success by the Panthers and head coach Jake Plant. He said the team of course wanted to win the tournament, but he was proud of their finish.

“I feel that what the girls achieved this year was excellent,” Plant said. “At the start of this year, I think what the girls wanted to do was prove that they were worthy of competing for a championship.”

Plant also compared this season to last, when the Panthers went 0-9-1 in conference and finished in last place. This season they finished 4-3-3 in conference and earned the three seed. 

“When you look back and evaluate the season, the girls did exactly what they wanted to do,” Plant said. “They’ve been excellent all year and really committed to the process.”

He also spoke about the team’s confidence going into next season after competing well against the conference’s top two teams this year; Tennessee-Martin and Murray State. 

Tennessee-Martin scored 26 goals in conference play this season and 48 overall, by far the most in the OVC. But Eastern played them to a scoreless draw on Sept. 30. It was the only conference match the Skyhawks did not win.

In two matches against Murray State, including the semifinals, Eastern surrendered only three goals. Both matches were losses, but each by only one score. 

“The girls will go into (next) season, from the very start, knowing they are more than capable of winning (tough) games,” Plant said. “The element of confidence is probably going to grow and grow over the next 12 months.”

Looking ahead to next season, the Panthers will be without Olson and fellow senior Kayla Stolfa, who have both helped anchor the Eastern defense for the past several years. 

“We need to make sure that those minutes are taken over by somebody else,” Plant said. “There is a lot of responsibility on the girls that are left and the girls that will be incoming to fill that void and help us push on.”

Urtega and Carlson will both return on defense as will Victoria Wharton and Rachel Pappas, who each played in all 20 matches, and Eva Munoz, who played in 18.

When the 2019 season kicks off next August, it will become clear if the defense can remain consistent or the offense can take a step forward. It will also become clear if the Panthers can remain a top-tier OVC competitor. 

Adam Tumino can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]