When Washington State plays host to Montana in the first round of the NCAA women’s soccer tournament tonight, it will be without the services of trusty midfielder Maegan O’Neill.
The former Ferris High star’s collegiate career came to a close after suffering a herniated disc in the Cougars’ 4-2 win against California on Oct. 25. She first sustained the nagging injury in the spring.
O’Neill, a four-year starter, tallied five goals in 13 matches to help Washington State earn its ninth NCAA Tournament berth in 11 years.
The only Eastern Washington product on the Cougars’ roster, O’Neill said she’ll miss those experiences but is excited for the postseason, even if she isn’t on the pitch.
“I know they can still do great things,” O’Neill said. “I think this team can deal with whatever adversity is put in its way.”
Washington State (12-5-1) finished seventh in the talent-loaded Pac-12 Conference and was ranked as high as No. 7 in the country after starting the season 10-0, the best start in program history. The Cougars went 2-5-1 the rest of the way, including a 1-1 tie against top-ranked Stanford and a 3-2 loss No. 2 USC.
When the Cougars face Montana (7-8-6) at 7 p.m. tonight at Lower Soccer Field, it’ll be the second time the teams have met in Pullman this season. WSU handled the Big Sky Conference Tournament champions 3-1 on Sept. 14, a game in which O’Neill added an insurance goal in the 70th minute.
O’Neill finished her career with eight goals on 13 shots. She was a starter in 62 of her 74 matches.
She played in two NCAA Tournaments, including a run to the Sweet 16 last season, and believes Washington State’s soccer program will continue its ascent.
“In the past, Washington State did well with hard-working players,” O’Neill said. “Now we’re attracting both hard workers and really good soccer players. (Head coach Todd) Shulenberger has brought consistency to the program.
“Being from Spokane, I’ve grown up a Coug, so I am proud to be a part of it.”
Four Cougars earn Pac-12 honors
WSU’s Morgan Weaver, Maddy Haro, O’Neill and Mykiaa Minniss earned All-Pac-12 distinction.
Weaver, who ranks second in the country in scoring (12 goals), was a first-team selection. Haro, a second-team pick, had a WSU-record 13 assists, which ranks fourth in the country.
After earning honorable mention the last two seasons, O’Neill was a third-team selection, scoring five goals, the second-best mark on the team, despite missing five games because of injury.
Minniss was the sixth-straight Cougar to make the all-freshman team.
For the first time since 2005, multiple Gonzaga women’s players were named to the All-West Coast Conference first or second teams.
India Jencks, Gonzaga’s leading scorer (six goals), and Ariana Pumpelly were both second-team selections after helping the Bulldogs (10-4-4, 5-2-2 WCC) to one of their best conference seasons in program history.
McKenna Ferrera was an honorable mention and Haley Archuleta was named to the All-Freshman team for Gonzaga, which allowed just 18 goals this season.
Whitworth men, women pile up All-NWC picks
The Pirates men’s and women’s teams may not have reached the NCAA Division III Tournament, but they were well-represented on the All-Northwest Conference teams.
Whitworth midfielder Kyle Cacoyannis (first team), defender Ty Cardinale (second team), goalie Jesus Nunez (honorable mention) and midfielder Ethan Kemwere (honorable mention) paced the Pirates men (5-11-14).
Sydney Weiler, Kelly Wucherer, and Arielle Van Peursem were all first-team picks for the women, who finished 12-5-3. Jadyn Baumgartner and Courtney Harmon were honorable mentions.
Weiler, a defender and former University High standout, anchored a Pirates defense that allowed an average of one goal a match.
Former CdA star shines at Eastern Oregon
Eastern Oregon junior Josee Bassett, a former Coeur d’Alene High standout, was named the Cascade Collegiate Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year.
Bassett, a defender, spearheaded a 20th-ranked Mountaineers team that allowed 12 goals in 16 games, including 10 shutouts.
Eastern Oregon won the CCC regular-season and tournament titles.
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