Maes Off To A Hot Start For Cougars

By Joseph Utter

WSU midfielder Eileen Maes started her sophomore season scoring all three goals in a 3-1 opening game win against Hawaii and was named Pac-12 Player of the Week for the second time in her career. The hat trick was also the second of her career, making her only the second Cougar in school history to have multiple matches with three or more goals.

After an impressive freshman year where Maes was second on the team in goals and had her first hat trick in a win over Gonzaga, Maes used the offseason to improve her overall fitness. The hard work is paying off.

"That was my main priority," she said. "Over the summer, it was more that I know what I need to do. I needed to improve my fitness."

Maes, who came to WSU from Oakland, Calif., said that she took her offseason training more seriously this year. She said that training is a big factor to succeeding at the Pac-12 level. WSU head coach Matt Potter said that Maes is an integral part of the team and her improved fitness has allowed her to play at a higher level.

"She's worked very hard in the offseason to work on her fitness and put that at levels that allow her to bring out the skills she's blessed with," Potter said. "She has an eye for the goal."

Maes finished last season solidly, notching four points in the final four games, giving her more confidence that carried over to the start of 2011 season. Not only has Maes improved her fitness, but she is also becoming a leader on a young team that has only three seniors on the roster.

"We're pretty young," she said. "I'm still learning, but I want to be more of an influence on the team."

Potter said that Maes has taken on more responsibility this season, which is what he expects from his players.

"Our overall philosophy for the program is that every individual leaves a more complete person and she has embraced that after her freshman year," Potter said. "We've created an environment that allows her to grow at her pace, but we also understand her potential so we are trying to work on bringing out that potential."

The Cougars saw her potential after an impressive high school soccer career in California. She was a two-year captain of her Castro Valley High School team and even scored the game-winning goal in the North Coast Section championship match as a senior. Maes said a big reason she chose to come to WSU was that a couple of her high school teammates were also going to attend, Micaela Castain and Mariah Cameron.

"They are my best friends since I can remember and I wanted to stay close," Maes said.

Coming to WSU, she said, also allowed her to play in the Pac-12 and play in a successful conference. Maes said that last season was disappointing for the team after not making it to the NCAA tournament. She said this year her goal is to not only make the tournament, but to be a big factor. The Cougars are 2-1 to start the season, with the one lost coming in a hard fought match against nationally-ranked University of Portland.

"Portland was crazy, it was a different atmosphere," Maes said. "People are screaming at you and you have to deal with the environment."

Maes said the crowd support at the Cougars' home games has been great so far this season. WSU had a record home crowd of 1,273 on Aug. 28 against Seattle Univ. and Maes had an assist on the lone goal scored in a 1-0 Cougar victory. Potter said that the team needs Maes to be around the ball as much as possible if they want to continue the early success.

"She's very good on the ball," he said. "It's a great start to the season for her and obviously we're hoping that it continues to get even better. I'm excited for her"

Next up for Maes and the Cougars are matches against Wyoming on Friday at 3 p.m. and Sunday against Weber State at 11 a.m. Both matches are in Pullman. WSU opens Pac-12 play Sept. 30 at home against nationally-ranked Stanford.

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