Weekly GNAC awards dominated by Vikings
Forward Gabriela Pelogi makes a habit of scoring goals. She has collected 10 this season, more than any player in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference.
Pelogi, a junior, is one of four Western soccer players to earn Player of the Week honors in the GNAC in offensive or defensive categories since the beginning of fall quarter.
The others were junior women’s defender Taylor Hallquist, along with men’s senior goalkeeper Tyler Visten and freshman forward Drew Farnsworth.
For Pelogi, it’s her second award this season. But she makes sure to credit her teammates for the success.
“No other team presses like we do,” Pelogi said. “It scares them, and that’s how we score goals.”
Hallquist, a recent Defensive Player of the Week standout, said she takes a lot of pride in her role as a team leader.
“Everyone on our team plays defense,” she said. “We don’t take any breaks. Everyone’s winning their individual battles. That’s essential in the style we like to play.”
The Vikings are coming off the program’s first national championship. They haven’t lost a match in nearly two years.
“I feel like we have a lot of weight on our shoulders,” Hallquist said. “But that just pushes me even more and makes me want to play my best.”
At least one player on the women’s team has earned top-conference recognition in each week of the new campaign. Overall, the Western women have won six of the 12 Player of the Week selections this season, while the men have won two of the 12 selections.
Hallquist joins Pelogi, junior midfielder Karli White, senior goalkeeper Ashley Homer and sophomore defender Annaliese Laurila as recipients.
Hallquist knows what it takes to win as a defender.
“It’s being able to be razor-sharp in the moments right in front of goal, or when you’re one-on-one with a fast attacker,” Hallquist said. “I love going against girls who are creative and like having the ball at their feet.”
On the men’s side, freshman forward Drew Farnsworth is making an early impact with two goals to open conference play. The Offensive Player of the Week honoree, and New Zealand native, said his dream was to play college soccer in America.
“I wasn’t expecting, coming in as a freshman, to have such a good first week in the GNAC,” Farnsworth said. “That’s a pretty special award, not only for me, but for the team.”
The men’s team has toughed out a result in seven consecutive matches after starting the season 0-2, earning Team of the Week GNAC accolades. Both defeats came in overtime.
Farnsworth said the team has put the heartbreak of those losses behind them.
“After those games, it was a pretty low mood in the changing room,” he said. “We’ve all bonded together. We’ve got that team chemistry that helps us get the results now.”
Farnsworth chalks up much of his early-collegiate success to preparation.
“If you put in the training, that’s how you’ll play,” Farnsworth said.
These Vikings players have earned respect in the GNAC with a blend of stalwart defending and creative offense. Both Western soccer teams are poised for a trip back to the national tournament.
Pelogi keeps her focus on that objective. She leads the team in shots with 54, 25 of those on goal.
“Our team cannot let other teams get in our heads,” Pelogi said.
Pelogi said she sees the team returning to the Final Four this season.
Amidst those lofty expectations, Taylor Hallquist said she wants something more: to be remembered. Her motto comes from her coach at Columbia River High School, former Western men’s player, Filomon Afenegus.
“He told me to leave a legacy,” Hallquist said. “My legacy at Western soccer is going to be hard defense, being a good teammate and being a leader.”