Men’s soccer preview: Pirates look to repeat as NWC champs
The Whitworth soccer team is making a few adjustments this season.
So is new coach Morgan Cathey, who can finally get back to the business of coaching after a house fire last month on Spokane’s South Hill left him and his family temporarily homeless.
On the morning of Aug. 8, while Cathey was in California on a recruiting trip and his wife and two children were out of town on a camping trip, their rental home was engulfed by a flame that also consumed a neighboring house.
“We had only been here a few weeks,” said Cathey, who coached last year at Cal State-Stanislaus. “We lost a majority of our stuff – furniture, appliances, that sort of thing,” Cathey said.
Since then, grace has intervened and the Cathey family is living with a Whitworth pastor.
On the field, Cathey said, “everything’s going really well right now. We have such a great group of guys … the conceptual things in the game, you can see them learning and growing while they’re on the field.”
The Pirates were Northwest Conference champions last year in what turned out to be the last one for coach Sean Bushey, who left to join the Colorado Rush.`
The adjustments have been few, although Cathey must replace goalkeeper Kyle Novak, the Northwest Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2012. Sophomore Shane Nishioka-Healy is expected to start when the Pirates open the season Saturday at Texas-Tyler.
“With his being in the system, he really knows what we want from a goalkeeper,” said Cathey. “He’s very good with his feet and very confident.”
Nishioka-Healy is also getting competition from first-year player Timmy Costa.
A former keeper himself, Cathey appreciates having a strong group of defenders. “They’re all quality players, and I think our back line could compete with any back line in the county,” said Cathey of Pirate defenders Balin Larson, Andrew Flint, Will Wren and Colin Shockman.
Robby Ubben, a first-team All-NWC selection in 2012 with seven goals and one assist, returns as a starting forward.
Samual Engle started 11 matches at forward and as an attacking midfielder last season and finished with four goals and three assists. Andrew French started 15 matches at forward and scored four goals.
With 18 returning players, head coach soccer coach Einar Thorarinsson hopes to get the Bulldogs back on the winning track this season.
“The bulk of the team from last year is back, especially the back line. We can rely on those guys being ready and they are,” Thorarinsson said. “Obviously, we want new players to integrate into the team quickly so we are trying to get those guys up to speed. But it’s nice to have the bulk of the team back.”
The Bulldogs (4-14-1 overall and 0-11-1 in the rugged West Coast Conference last year) opened the season by taking Washington to the wire before losing 1-0 last week.
Thorarinsson looks for seniors Greg Carter, Josh Phillips and Ryan Caballero – three of the returning back-liners Thorarinsson singled out – along with junior midfielder Lars Ludwigs as establishing themselves as leaders.
“Greg, Josh, Ryan and Lars have shown a willingness and leadership qualities,” Thorarinsson said.
As for newcomers who stood out, he said, “It’s too early to say. They all look promising and they call came in fit … very impressive.”