By Ian Haupt
Two goals in two minutes for junior forward Christian Rotter set the sail for the Vikings’ win over the Northwest Nazarene University Nighthawks on a cold and windy night at Robert S. Harrington Field on Thursday, Oct. 25.
The 3-0 victory jumped the Western men’s soccer team from sixth to second place in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference with three games left to play. The Vikings have an in-conference record of 4-4-1 and season overall record of 8-6-1 for the 2018-19 season thus far.
Simon Fraser University has already clinched the GNAC championship title with an undefeated conference record of 9-0-0. Now, the excitement is in the battle for the runner-up spot, which is between five teams with one point separating them.
On a two-game winning streak, the Vikings have gained some momentum heading into the last games of the season. Head Coach Greg Brisbon said he hopes to keep the streak going.
“It’s super tight,” Brisbon said about the GNAC runner-up spot. “So hopefully we can keep winning and get that second place.”
From the first whistle, the Vikings looked intent on winning as they attacked with speed, moving the ball accurately and with pace in midfield, while defensively putting pressure on the Nighthawks.
The first goal came in the 20th minute with a through ball from sophomore forward Drew Farnsworth. Rotter found himself one-on-one with the Nighthawks’ goalkeeper, freshman Alex Nadermann. As Nadermann rushed out of his net, Rotter chipped the ball over his head to give Western an early lead.
Only two minutes later, Rotter lasered a shot on goal from 12 yards out that Nadermann could not get a firm enough hand on. The goal was assisted by sophomore midfielder Georg Cholewa. Rotter said his mindset coming into the game was to be in attack-mode, something he spoke with Brisbon about earlier in the week.
“I just haven’t been myself for some of the games this season,” Rotter said. “So I wanted to be attacking and going forward tonight.”
The third goal came in the 33rd minute with another assist from Cholewa when he crossed the ball into the penalty box from the right side of the field to set up junior forward Ryan Schaefer for a close-range shot that he easily sunk into the back of the net. Brisbon credited the Vikings’ defense for setting up shots early on in the game.
“I thought our defensive pressure was really good as a group and that created those early chances in the first half,” Brisbon said. “So, scoring three goals in the first half, it’s tough to comeback from. It was really a key to the game.”
Northwest Nazarene was looking for a goal to get them back into the game toward the end of the first half with shots on goal to challenge Western’s goalkeeper, redshirt freshman Brandon Walter.
The second half of the game was played largely in the midfield. The Nighthawks’ frustration was exemplified with 11 fouls committed in the half, compared to the Vikings’ six. With a strong and organized defense, the Vikings held Northwest Nazarene to a clear shutout, solidifying their win.
The Western men will continue on in the GNAC with their upcoming home game on Thursday, Nov. 1 against the undefeated conference champions, Simon Fraser University. If the Vikings keep the wins rolling, they may be able to clinch a second place spot in the conference.