WSU set for playoff soccer

Cougs host Montana on Saturday

AARIK LONG, Evergreen reporter

The WSU soccer team (13-2-4) begins their march through the NCAA Tournament with a home match against Montana (12-5-1) at 5 p.m. Saturday. 

“You gotta put in the work to be able to have that chance to do it,” head coach Todd Shulenberger said. “We’re excited to be able to host this weekend.”

The Grizzlies come into the match with a six-match winning streak intact following a 1-0 win against Weber State in the Big Sky Conference Championship match.

On the opposite end of the sideline, WSU comes in with a three-match winning streak and a seven-match unbeaten streak. The Cougs most recent match was a 4-2 victory against Washington in the Apple Cup match.

In the head-to-head series between these two, WSU holds a record 14-6-2 record. The Cougs have won the last three and have not lost to the Grizzlies in the past 11 matches. 

“We tell our team every day that winning is hard,” Shulenberger said. “We don’t take things for granted.”

Montana is led by fifth-year forward Taylor Stoeger. The Green River, Wyoming native leads the team in goals and total points with seven and 18 respectively. Stoeger also leads in game-winners with three to her credit. Fellow fifth-year Taylor Hansen leads the team in assists with six.

For the Cougs, fifth-year Elyse Bennett will look to keep her fantastic season going. Bennett currently leads the team in goals and points with 10 shots finding the back of the net and 24 total points. Junior Enzi Broussard and senior Sydney Studer lead the team with five assists each. Fifth-year Sydney Pulver leads the Cougs with three game-winning goals.

In goal for the Grizzlies this season has been redshirt freshman Camellia Xu. Xu has accumulated an incredible 11 shutouts this season while only playing in 19 games. This mark is tied for the third-best in all of NCAA Division I women’s soccer. The freshman also has saved 88.2 percent of the shots she has faced, which ranks fourth in Division I. 

However, the Cougs have their own freshman phenom in between the sticks. Nadia Cooper has played in 15 matches, accumulating seven shutouts. Cooper’s 86.2 percent of shots saved also ranks inside the top ten of Division I, sitting at No. 9 on the leaderboard. 

Looking at both teams’ schedules, there is not a ton of overlap, but there are two similar opponents. WSU faced two Big Sky teams in non-conference play this season. They hosted Eastern Washington in a 4-0 victory and traveled to Northern Colorado for a 3-0 victory.

The Big Sky champs did not have such commanding performances with a 1-0 loss to Northern Colorado on the road and a 2-0 victory in Cheney against Eastern Washington.

The game kicks off at 5 p.m. Saturday.