Having one player named conference player of the week is already impressive, but having two in the same week is a rarity. Idaho made it happen this week as Big Sky Conference play begins.
Goalkeeper Amanda Poertner and junior midfielder Alyssa Lloyd were honored by the Big Sky Conference as Defensive and co-Offensive Players of the Week, respectively.
Poertner, a freshman from Fullerton, California, allowed just one goal over the weekend against South Dakota and Seattle University combined, and Seattle has the 27th highest RPI in country. Poertner has three shutouts this season, which leads the Big Sky.
Lloyd led the team with two goals in the 4-1 win over South Dakota last Friday. The Colbert, Washington native also had an assist in the game. Her efforts against the Coyotes and in the draw with Seattle Sunday earned her co-Offensive Player of the Week honors with Hayley Wingender of Northern Arizona.
The biggest story going into the coming weekend is the start of Big Sky Conference play, something the team is prepared for according to Idaho coach Derek Pittman. The Vandals play at Idaho State at 3 p.m. Friday and at Weber State at 11 a.m. Sunday.
“I think we’re very prepared,” Pittman said. “Obviously there’s always things we can work on. We’re continuing to train this week as we get ready for Idaho State (1-7-1) and Weber State (4-4-1), but we’re really happy with how the nonconference portion of our season went.”
Idaho finished 4-4-1 against the nine nonconference schools they played, a drastic improvement over the 0-9 record Idaho had at this point last year.
“We learned a lot about ourselves the last nine, ten games,” Pittman said. “This (past) weekend was a good culmination of how we have been playing to this point.”
The Vandals even find one of their players among the nation’s elite, with Junior midfielder Clara Gomez as fifth in the country in assists.
Idaho’s first objective this year is to make the Big Sky Tournament, then worry about a berth in the NCAA tournament, Pittman said.
“Our team set a goal at the very beginning of the season to make the conference tournament,” Pittman said. “The top six of the 11 schools go to the conference tournament. We want to be in that top six. If we are in that tournament then we can talk about a conference championship.”
Idaho finished tied for seventh place in the Big Sky with Southern Utah last year.
“At this point in time we’re just taking it one game at a time,” he said. “Get the most points we can out of each and every match we have, and hopefully at the end of this next 10 games that we will be in the top six … Our number one goal is to make the conference tournament.”
After the road trips to Idaho State and Weber State this weekend, the Vandals will have four home games in a row the next two weekends against Big Sky opponents.
Ben Evensen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BenE_VN