Removed from the diversions of exhibition matches and non-conference opponents, the Panthers have not always been particularly equipped at handling Tennessee-Martin, Southeast Missouri or any other Ohio Valley Conference team on the opening weekend of conference play.
Each year Eastern plays its first two conference matches in middle-to-late September, and no Panther team has won both matches on opening weekend since they went 2-0 in 2013.
This year, the results were somewhat mixed.
Eastern goalkeeper Sara Teteak and her defensive reinforcements withstood 16 shots on goal from Tennessee-Martin, ranked as the second-best team in the conference, to tie the Skyhawks 0-0 Friday.
The Panthers, though, could not do as much in their 1-0 loss to Southeast Missouri Sunday.
The Skyhawks hassled Teteak in both regulation and overtime with an output of 31 shots, as she relocated from third on the Eastern all-time leaderboard for career shutouts to second.
Only Tiffany Groene of the 2005 Panthers has procured more shutouts over her entire career at 19.5.
In keeping pace with Tennessee-Martin, which succumbed to Murray State in the Ohio Valley Conference championship a season ago, the Panthers dragged their first match of the weekend into two overtime periods.
The Skyhawks set the offensive and defensive benchmarks for the other 10 teams in the conference last season, fielding a lineup that led the league in shots, assists, goals and shots allowed on a .95 winning percentage.
But the production from Tennessee-Martin forwards Alice Adams and Hendrikje Baurmann, each of who finished with three shots on goal, did not eat away at Teteak’s poise and effectiveness in the penalty area.
After an offside call early in the first overtime period, the Skyhawks unleashed a sequence of shots on Teteak in the opening five minutes, with two shots via Adams and one apiece from Lotte Koot and Maria Catsaldo.
Lexi Ketterhagen’s wide, off-the-mark shot in the closing minutes of the first overtime had been the one such offensive opportunity in the period, drawing enough of a distinction between Tennessee-Martin’s chances relative to those of Eastern.
The Panthers formed a final bid at taking the match in the second overtime.
Among the top 10 in shots per match, Nicoletta Anuci’s three shots in the final five minutes activated the offense after a period of inactivity at the outset of the second overtime.
At Southeast Missouri, the Eastern defense neutralized the Redhawks’ offensive attack for most of the match and, despite freshman Megan Heisserer’s goal midway into the first half, built up a pathway to victory.
The Redhawks ripped off 11 shots on goal to post a 2-0 conference record for the first time in eight seasons.
Tom O’Connor can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]