By Walker Sacon
The Western men’s soccer team found itself in a physical battle Thursday night, defeating Seattle Pacific University 2-0 at Harrington Field. SPU entered the game averaging 2.25 goals per game in league play but were stifled by the Vikings’ defense and five saves from senior goalkeeper Tyler Visten.
This victory brought the Vikings’ conference record to 4-0-0 and their overall record to 5-2-2. The Vikings also moved into sole possession of first place in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference.
Forward Christian Rotter and forward/defender Stephen Jinneman scored for the Vikings in a contest which senior midfielder Luke Olney said showcased the depth of Western’s squad.
Olney said Western’s subs were important in the win, both by allowing starters to rest and through impactful play like reserve forward Jose Castillo’s through ball which set up Rotter’s goal in the 48th minute.
Head coach Greg Brisbon said the team will enjoy the win for a couple hours before beginning its preparations for Saturday’s matchup at Harrington Field with Northwest Nazarene.
“It’s a long, long season and SPU’s a very good team,” coach Brisbon said.
The Vikings controlled play much of the first half and had several quality chances including a shot by Olney that rebounded off the crossbar allowing the Vikings a second opportunity but were unable to break the scoreless tie before the half. Olney, a team captain, said the team was frustrated at halftime, but believed in the ability of their forwards to score goals in the second half.
The game’s first yellow card, called on Olney, was given to Western in the 44th minute and came during an increase in physical play from both teams as Western would go on to receive three more after the half. SPU was also assessed three yellows in the second half.
Olney said the team looks forward to the physical games that rivalries produce because it allows them to take advantage of their size.
“We like to bring the physicality to the other team. We don’t let them impose it on us,” Olney said.
The team’s comfort level in physical games was apparent when Castillo found Rotter on a 20 yard ball with one man to beat after the first three minutes of the half saw yellow cards given to both team. Rotter took a few touches to create space as he fought through the last defender and blasted the ball into the bottom right corner.
“It was probably one of the best placed shots of my life,” Rotter said.
Western’s strong physical play continued late when Jinneman, a tall junior, was able to fight his way to the front of the left post in the 64th minute. Olney then found him for a headed goal on a free kick from 25 yards out to take a 2-0 lead. Senior forward Anthony Dean battled with SPU defenders throughout the game to create chances and finished with four shots.
“Everyone put in a great shift tonight,” Rotter said, adding that the team hoped to put pressure on opponents as they moved up the standings in pursuit of another NCAA tournament appearance.
Visten’s final save came as the clock wound down and crushed any hope SPU had for a miracle comeback as Western was able to regain possession and avoid significant danger in the last ten minutes.
The Vikings will play Northwest Nazarene on Saturday at 7:00p.m. on Harrington Field as they attempt to extend their seven game unbeaten streak.