Senior Day for women’s soccer ends in sixth draw of season


Han Byer

Six senior women’s soccer players stand with their framed jerseyes and leis before the start of their Senior Day game against the UT Martin Skyhawks at Lakeside Field Sunday afternoon. The Panthers and Skyhawks tied 1-1.

Kate Stevens, Assistant Sports Editor

The back-and-forth possessions between Eastern and UT Martin led to a 1-1 tie for the women’s soccer team on Senior Day at Lakeside Field on Sunday afternoon.

Before the match began, EIU recognized the senior players as they each received a plaque with their jersey in it.

The seniors are goalkeeper Faith Davies, forward Michaela Danyo, midfielders Kenzie Balcerak and Nicoletta Anuci, and defenders Megan Kenny and Zenaya Barnes.

Danyo, Balcerak, Anuci, and Kenny all played in Sunday’s match, but Davies and Barnes have been out due to injury.

The seniors gathered after the match to reflect on their senior day match. Barnes was happy with the fan and family turnout to watch one of their final games as a Panther.

“Obviously having all the parents and fans out here is a good atmosphere and I think we’re all just excited to be together with our families and friends and we got to play soccer on a beautiful day,” Barnes said.

The seniors said that while they didn’t get the result they wanted out of the match, they are pleased with their team and will continue to work hard in the next few games.

“I think that we had a really good start, and we will continue to build off of that. I think that the camaraderie that we have as a team is really good,” Danyo said.

“We have a lot of talent this year, so definitely just playing together, it’s clicking, but we’ve got a lot of progress to make. We just gotta keep grinding at it,” Balcerak said.

Number 21 Kenzie Balcerak, a senior midfielder, attempts to slide kick the ball away from UT Martin Skyhawk players during the women’s soccer Senior Day game at Lakeside Field Sunday afternoon. Balcerak had 2 shots. The Panthers and Skyhawks tied 1-1. (Han Byer)

“We’ve also gotten to the point too, we’ve learned to play to the final whistle, and we keep giving 110% regardless and we know it’s not the result we wanted today, especially for Senior Day, but we know that the result’s coming as long as we keep working hard in practice and on the field,” Anuci said.

Davies mentioned how proud she is of the team and the ways different players have stepped up this season.

“I think our bench is really deep this year, we’ve had a lot of younger girls just step up into bigger roles this year,” Davies said.

Balcerak and Barnes have enjoyed the way the team has bonded and reflected happily on the things that bring them together.

“I think we just have fun together. Practices are fun, we all get along super well,” Balcerak said.

“Our culture and chemistry is awesome on and off the field, besides getting as many wins as we want, it’s still positive vibes all the time in the locker room, on the field, in the classrooms, just being able to have that type of bond with each other is important,” Barnes said.

Coach Jake Plant is pleased with his seniors and what they’ve done for the team in their time at EIU.

“Yes, they’re great soccer players. Yes, they’re great in academics, but they’re great people. They’re good, good kids,” Plant said. “I don’t wanna lose those types of kids, but unfortunately graduation does that to us. We’re gonna miss them big time because they do so much for the program off the field, which is the major thing. We focus on relationships within the program and our culture, and these guys really did a good job of it.”

EIU started the match off playing physical and attacking early which led to an early goal for Jenna Little assisted by Cam Korhorn three minutes into the match.

Plant was happy with the way things started out for his team as Little was able to drop that goal in to the lower left corner as the goalkeeper was unable to reach out for it.

“It was what we needed, a great start,” Plant said.

The Skyhawks answered Little’s goal 20 minutes later. Plant said giving up that goal was frustrating, but he was proud of his team’s performance.

“They’re a really resilient bunch. I think when you concede a goal early on, you know, it’s a back-and-forth game than what we were used to that easily can get out of hand. We had some big moments. Dani (Bermeo), you know, made some big saves in the second half. So yeah, I’m just so proud of the performance.”

Plant knew coming into the game that it was going to be physical as both teams were trying to earn their first conference win. They both came into the match with a 0-3-1 conference record.

“You know, these types of days, the windy day gets tense. Two teams needed a win, so when start on the front foot it’s always a good thing. We were very happy with that,” Plant said.

The Panthers fought until the final whistle, but they were unable to answer the Skyhawk’s first half goal as the match remained tied during the second half.

EIU has three more conference matches to play in before their season ends in just a few weeks. They are on the road next Sunday to play at Little Rock and then return for one more home match against Lindenwood the following Thursday afternoon.

Kate Stevens can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]