Men’s soccer: Zags look to build on 2013 season
The Gonzaga men’s soccer team took some big strides last year, but will be counting on some fresh legs to take the Bulldogs further this year.
“The team has been talking about the preparation it takes and all of the things we need to do. They are ready,” said coach Einar Thorarinsson, entering his 16th season.
A year after posting one of the biggest turnarounds in recent West Coast Conference history – from 0-11-1 in 2012 to 5-4-3 last year – the Bulldogs know one thing: they can put the ball in the net.
Senior striker Clark Phillips netted nine goals last year and figures to get more chances this year thanks to the presence of junior forward Conner Bevans, who added another four. Midfielders Jakob Granlund, Lars Ludwigs and Ben Striar all bring starting experience.
On the other hand, the defense lost several starters and key backups from last year, and it showed last week in a 4-0 loss to sixth-ranked Washington.
“We started three freshmen and at times had six freshmen on the field,” Thorarinsson said. “It was a very experienced team against a very young team. But those young players have been winning those spots.”
One stabilizing factor is junior goalkeeper Chris Lowrimore, who played in just one match last year but started four in 2012.
The nonconference schedule won’t get much easier, as the Bulldogs face Marquette, California and Stanford on the road before starting WCC play.
Gonzaga is picked to finish sixth in the conference, but only a few votes separate the third through seventh picks in the preseason poll.
Whitworth: Despite the loss of nine seniors, the Pirates return a nucleus of talent as they hope to return to the NCAA Division III playoffs they narrowly missed last year.
“We have shifted some players around that have filled needs really well and the talent we have coming in has already learned the system and are competing within their respective positions,” second-year coach Morgan Cathey said.
Last year, the Pirates finished 12-3-3, but placed second in the Northwest Conference behind Puget Sound and didn’t receive an at-large playoff berth.
Whitworth returns significant experience. Midfielder Sam Engle (four goals and four assists last year) was an All-NWC second-team selection last year, while midfielder Matt Bray and defenders Spencer Wolfe and David Starkovich were honorable-mention picks.
Nathan Fosket, Samual Jarrett and Chris Rothrock each played at least 10 matches last year at midield.
The Pirates should get a boost from senior transfer Michael Ramos, the leading scorer this summer for the Spokane Shadow. Ramos, a former star at University High School, played at Division I Seattle University in 2011.
Whitworth is predicted to capture its seventh NWC crown in the past 11 seasons, receiving four of the eight first-place votes in the preseason coaches’ poll. Whitworth received 50 points overall, while Pacific Lutheran (41 points), Puget Sound (35) and Willamette (35) each received a first-place vote and all figure to contend for the title.
Community Colleges of Spokane: Coach Kenny Krestian enters his eighth season with an experieneed lineup, including a pair of NWAC all-stars in midfielders Devin Leon and Alex Opland.
Another reason for optimism: nine sophomores, many of whom played a key part in the Sasquatch going 13-6-3 last season.
The lineup is heavy with local talent, including defenders Blake Shinder (University High School), Robert Kissinger-Smith (Central Valley), Tanner Wilburn (Mead), Brandon Babinsku (West Valley) and midfilder Carson Lamphere (Cheney).
North Idaho College: Coach Ken Thompson enters his third year after leading the Cardinals to two straight postseason appearances, with both seasons ending in losses to teams advancing to the NJCAA nationals.
Only four sophomores return from last year’s team, which went 11-6-2 after losing in the regionals to Laramie County (Wyoming) CC.
This year’s Cardinals team is young; the four sophomores include former East Valley star Adam Talley, who also played this summer for the Shadow.
The roster is dotted with the names of several former Spokane-area prep stars, including forward Kyle Bender (University), goalkeeper Robert Powles (Mt. Spokane) and defender Kurtis Kanenwischer (East Valley).