Another Ryan shutout locks Leathernecks win

Garrick Hodge assistant sports editor

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A player who scores on Andy Ryan should keep the ball. It doesn’t happen very often.

The Western Illinois goalkeeper picked up his eighth shutout of the season on Tuesday as the Leathernecks (10-5-1) blanked non-conference foe Evansville, 2-0. The game was played at Arad McCutchan Stadium in Evansville, Ind.

Ryan stopped four Evansville shots on goal to improve his record to 10-4-1. Ryan is currently 10th in the nation in save percentage and has saved 85 percent of the shots he’s faced this season.

Freshmen Diego Gonzalez and Ebenezer Mengistu tallied goals for the Leathernecks.

“It was great to see our freshmen step up with our three starting defensemen not playing,” said Western head coach Eric Johnson. “They played a really nice match and scored two nice goals.”

Scoring opportunities in the first half were minimal, as Western only attempted four shots. However, Gonzalez made the most of his extended playing time, netting his third goal of the season in the 39th minute to give the Leathernecks a 1-0 lead at the end of the first half.

The Leathernecks added to their lead in the second half when Megistu scored in the 59th minute. Junior Matt Carlson assisted on the goal, which was the first of Megistu’s collegiate career.

The Purple Aces (5-10-1) finished with nine shots, two more than the Leathernecks.

The Leathernecks, regular-season champions of the Summit League, will play their final 2011 conference match on Saturday at 2 p.m. against host Oral Roberts (5-10-1, 2-2-1). Western will then finish up its regular-season slate at Central Arkansas (2-9-4) on Sunday at 11 a.m.

The Leathernecks will open postseason play in the Summit League conference tournament next Friday, Nov. 11 at the University of Missouri-Kansas City against an as-yet-to-be determined opponent.


Western sophomore setter Heather Smith recorded a career-high 11 kills Tuesday evening, helping the Leathernecks earn a straight-set non-conference victory at Chicago State. Western’s 26-24, 25-19, 25-13 sweep was the team’s 14th consecutive win over the Cougars (1-25). The match was held at the Dickens Center in Chicago.

Smith had 5 kills in the final set to help Western secure the victory. Smith is averaging 2.35 kills per set over the Leathernecks’ last five matches after averaging less than 1 kill per set over Western’s first 22 contests.

Freshman Ann Miller added to the Leatherneck attack by recording 8 kills. Miller, also, compiled 10 digs for her 20th double-digit performance of the season.

Senior Brooke Stittleburg put down 9 kills, and freshman Mallory Gibson chipped in 5, including the final 2 kills of the match. Senior Cait Egan collected 3 block assists to move into a tie with Laura Olsen (1988-92) for sixth all-time in program history with 258 career block assists.

Sophomore Sarah Fetter dished out 35 assists to go along with 6 digs, 3 kills and 2 service aces. Junior libero Bridget Murphy compiled a match-high 19 digs, while freshman Molly Murphy picked up her team-leading 41st ace of the season in the second set.

Even though the Leathernecks have been officially eliminated from Summit League playoff contention, the team is still looking to finish the season on a high note.

Western (12-15) is back in Summit League action Saturday at Indiana University-Purdue University Indiana. First serve is set for 6 p.m. inside The Jungle. The Jaguars (13-14, 7-8) are in a battle with Oakland (14-10, 8-6) for the fourth and final postseason spot.


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