The Gonzaga men’s soccer team goal is simple: more of them.
After scoring just 16 goals last season, the Bulldogs are off to a better pace, scoring once in an overtime loss to Washington, beating Seattle 2-1 and stopping Manhattan 3-0.
Sophomore forward Clark Phillips has accounted for two goals and an assist as the Bulldogs employed a 4-3-3 formation that head coach Einar Thorarinsson hopes will pay off.
“We try to put them (the forwards) high and wide, forcing the other team to cover a wider area,” said Thorarinsson, whose club finished 4-12-3 overall last year and 2-8-2 in the West Coast Conference.
Phillips, a preseason All-WCC selection along with junior midfielder James Matern, led the team last year with four goals and three assists.
Thorarinsson hopes that the Bulldogs will be able to put five attacking players into transition, “That’s in some ways a change from last year, with more attacking,” he said.
Gonzaga scored 16 goals a year ago, and players who scored 12 of those return this year. Junior keeper Ryan Caballero, who started 16 matches a year ago with a 1.64 goals-against average, is back.
Caballero set a single-season saves record last season with 93, topping the record he tied in 2010 with 91. Redshirt freshman Chris Lowrimore and redshirt sophomore Keane Ellis are also vying for time.
Nine freshmen and a pair of transfers dot the roster, and two of them – freshman forward Conner Bevans from La Habra Heights, Calif., and sophomore transfer midfielder Lars Ludwigs from Woellstein, Germany – should get the starting nod.
Whitworth: Despite returning only four starters, “Our expectations remain high,” said head coach Sean Bushey, who has won seven Northwest Conference titles in 17 years.
Last year’s team graduated nine seniors, including seven who earned All-Northwest Conference recognition while winning three NWC titles in four years.
“There is no doubt we graduated a very talented class, but I believe we have some good players joining our program and we have guys who are returning that have worked hard. We are excited to work toward a conference title.”
That work may begin in goal, where Kyle Novak and Nate Bell compete to replace four-year starter Brian Sherpe. Novak studied abroad in 2011, but posted a 0.42 goals-against average in 10 matches in 2010.
Bell appeared in three matches last year and didn’t concede a goal.
The Pirates will need to replace two full-time starters along the back line. But they can look to sophomore Colin Shockman, who earned honorable mention All-NWC as a first-year starter in 2011, to be an anchor.
Several other returning players have significant playing experience, including seniors Steven Acosta and Eric Wonn, along with juniors Andrew Flint and Will Wren. Junior Balin Larson, a transfer, will be in the mix for a starting role as well.
At midfield, junior Sam Selisch and sophomore Matt Bray have the most experience.