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Gonzaga women’s soccer team steps up game with defense

College soccer notebook

Gonzaga University’s women’s team opens West Coast Conference play at Saint Mary’s on Friday on a nice roll.

The Bulldogs (7-4), after losing their first two games, reeled off three shutout wins before suffering a 2-1 double-overtime loss at Washington State and a 3-1 defeat at Washington. Since then, they have put together another three-game winning streak – outscoring their opponents 7-0 – and they enter WCC play feeling pretty good about themselves.

“We’re playing pretty well right now, and our team has a lot of confidence going into league games,” GU coach Amy Edwards said. “You look at the six shutouts we’ve had, and that’s certainly a change from where our program was a couple of year ago.

“We’ve got some players who really take a lot of pride in shutting teams down, and it shows.”

GU has four players – Emma Dolcetti, Sarah Rhodes, Ali Ohashi and Tori Lee – who have scored at least three goals. But defense has been at the core of the Bulldogs’ success.

Goalkeeper Susan Brown, a first-year junior transfer from Arkansas State, was rocked in a 5-1 season-opening loss to Illinois, which was ranked 24th at the time, but has been solid since. She will take a 1.07 goals-against average and .818 save percentage into Friday’s WCC opener against the Gaels (9-2-1).

Junior defender and three-year starter Morgan Manchester, out of East Valley High School, has played exceptionally well in front of Brown.

“Susan has stepped right in without missing a beat, and we’ve really benefitted from here experience and leadership,” Edwards said of Brown, who has played every minute of every game this fall. “And Morgan has been a rock for us, as well.

“Even though we lost to WSU and Washington, we felt we played some of our best soccer against them, but just came up short. I don’t want to call them moral victories, but we learned a lot about who we are from those losses, and, hopefully, we can build on that.”

In analyzing this year’s WCC race, Edwards puts No. 8 Pepperdine (8-0-4) and No. 14 Santa Clara (7-1-4) as the favorites, but added the overall balance in the conference makes it difficult to predict a champion.

GU, in a preseason poll of WCC coaches, was picked to finish in a tie for last place with San Francisco. Edwards is hoping to use that as motivation.

“We have nothing to lose, and that’s the kind of mentality we’re going to take into WCC play,” she said. “We don’t think (the poll) is who we are, and we’re going to step out and try to prove as much.

“We’re going to try to be giant-killers.”

Lopsided schedule

Washington State’s women (8-4-1, 2-1-0 Pac-12 Conference) will host Utah at 3 p.m. Friday in the third of five consecutive Pac-12 home games.

The Cougars, who will then entertain Colorado at noon Sunday, are 4-1 at home this fall and hope to keep themselves in the middle of the conference title race before their final home game against UCLA on Oct. 14.

The Cougs play their final five games of the regular season – all of which are Pac-12 games – on the road, including their regular-season finale against the cross-state rival Washington in Seattle at 7 p.m. on Nov. 3.

Cards still unbeaten

North Idaho College’s women, which is coming off a 4-2 win over Community Colleges of Spokane last Wednesday, will take a 10-0 record into its next match against Western Wyoming CC at home at 1:30 p.m. Friday.

During their winning steak, the Cardinals have posted five shutouts and have outscored their opponents 53-7.

Corner kicks

Whitworth’s Northwest Conference men’s matchup against Whitman in Walla Walla at 4 p.m. Saturday will be the Pirates’ first game since last Sunday. They won’t play again until Oct. 15, when they travel to Tacoma to take on NWC rival Pacific Lutheran. … Nineteen of the 21 players on Community Colleges of Spokane’s men’s roster are freshmen. The only two sophomores are midfielder T.J. Del Medico, from Central Valley High School, and defender Aaron Gleason, from University. … Gonzaga University’s men (2-6-1, 0-2-0 WCC) will try to end a scoring drought that has spanned more than 298 minutes on Friday, when they entertain Loyola Marymount in their WCC home opener at 3 p.m.