Western’s women’s soccer team comes into the 2016 season with high expectations after making it to the final four in 2015 and finishing with a 21-2-1 overall record. The National Soccer Coaches Association of America took notice, ranking the Vikings third in its preseason poll — so too did Great Northwest Athletic Conference’s coaches who unanimously selected Western to repeat as conference champions.
After dropping two of three exhibition matches, the Vikings opened their official season with a tie at Sonoma State University, followed by two wins at home over Academy of Art University and Metropolitan State University of Denver. In those matches, the Vikings have yet to yield a goal and are outscoring opponents 5-0.
Freshman Liv Larson has made an immediate impact for 14-year Head Coach Travis Connell’s squad, leading the team in goals (2), shots (15) and shots on goal (9). Redshirt freshman Emily Bunnell, sophomore Jen Oak and redshirt freshman Annaliese Laurila each have a goal as well.
Five Vikings — Bunnell, junior Emily Webster, freshman Peyton Chick, sophomore Mariah Roggow and senior Erin Russell — have each tallied an assist on the season.
The defensive backline has received solid contributions from Russell, Laurila, juniors Sierra Shugarts and Malia Maack, Sophomore Taylor Hallquist and freshman Lindsey Fujiwara and Emily Nelson to effectively stifle opposing offenses, allowing just 14 shots compared to the Vikings’ 94 shots. Junior goalkeeper Ashley Homer has stopped all six shots on frame in the team’s three shutout victories.
By the time classes are back in session on September 21, the Vikings will have played three more matches. The first is against Notre Dame De Namur University on September 10 at 4 p.m., followed by University of California-San Diego on September 14 at 7 p.m. and Western Oregon University (a GNAC contest) on September 17 at 4 p.m. All three matches are home at Robert S. Harrington Field.
On September 22, the Vikings match against the University of Bridgeport will be featured nationally on ESPN3 and WatchESPN as NCAA Division II’s Fall Game of the Week. UB also reached the final four last season and opened the season right behind Western in the rankings at #4.
Western volleyball looks poised for another run in 2016 after reaching the national semifinals in 2015, snagging the number five overall ranking in the American Volleyball Coaches Association preseason poll. The Vikings were also unanimously selected to finish in first-place in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference in a GNAC coaches poll.
High expectations are likely due to the fact the team brings back five starters from last year’s team, including last year’s Freshman of the year and First-Team GNAC selection Abby Phelps and Kayleigh Harper, another first-team GNAC selection.
Things got off to a shaky start for the highly-touted Vikings at the Concordia St. Paul Tournament as the team dropped its first three matches, two to top ranked Concordia University-St. Paul and one to Northern State University. The team responded well in its final match of the tournament, beating Truman State University three matches to zero.
Western rode that momentum to two 3-0 victories in the D2 West Region Volleyball Showcase, knocking of Dixie State University and Sonoma State University as well as a 3-2 victory over California Baptist University.
Phelps leads the team in points with 98.5, followed close behind by junior Arielle Turner with 96.5 — Harper is third at 76 points. The trio are joined by junior Joellee Buckner, redshirt freshman Kazlyn Roullier, sophomore Brette Boesel to round out the Viking starting unit.
September 14 marks the beginning of conference play with a trip to Simon Fraser University, followed by another road contest at Montana State University-Billings on September 17. Head Coach Diane Flick-Williams’ team will finally get its first home match when the University of Alaska Anchorage comes to Bellingham on September 22 at 7 p.m.
Men’s soccer kicked off its season at home with a pair of wins in exhibition matches over the University of Fraser Valley, 2-0, and the University of Puget Sound, 3-1.
In regular season action, the Vikings knocked off Chico State University on the road 1-0, then tied Sonoma State University 0-0 and lost to Metropolitan State University of Denver 2-1.
Senior Eleazar Galvan and junior Anthony Dean have a goal each, with Dean joining Ibra Drame and Brady Ulen in notching an assist apiece. Galvan and redshirt freshman Jeremiah Lee lead the way in shot attempts for the Vikings with 6 each.
One of the bright spots in a disappointing 2015 campaign which saw Western finish with an overall record of 5-10-3 was goalkeeper Tyler Visten. The junior has picked up where he left off saving ten of the twelve shots fired his way and amassing two shutouts.
Other significant contributors for Head Coach Greg Brisbon’s team have been juniors Luke Olney, Stephen Jinneman and Wesley Stark, redshirt freshman Nick Morgan and freshman Christian Rotter.
Before opening conference play at Saint Martin’s University on September 22, the Viking men will play two more non-conference games at home against Colorado Christian University (September 10) and Fort Hays State University (September 15) — both at 7 p.m. at Robert S. Harrington Field.
Men’s and Women’s Golf
Men’s Golf tees off at a 14-team competition hosted by Washington State University on September 12 and 13. Seniors Chris Hatch and Brett Johnson will lead the charge for a Viking team that finished 18th in last season’s NCAA Super Regional.
Women’s Golf doesn’t get things going until September 19 and 20 when the team travels to Goodyear, Arizona for the Western New Mexico Mustang Invitational. The Vikings bring back four all-GNAC selections this season, seniors Audrey Orem and Brooke Branigan, sophomore Stephanie Sewell and junior Jenn Paul who was also GNAC’s co-player of the year last season.
Both the Men and Women’s teams ran to team wins in the Central Washington University Invite in Ellensburg, Washington on September 10. Seven of the men’s competitors finished in the top-20, out of 39, including a first place finish for junior Andrew Wise and a second place finish from senior Matthew Lutz. Six women finished in the top-10, with senior Lillianna Stelling (2nd) and junior Shawna Troupe (3rd) bringing in the top finishes for the Vikings.