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Friday, April 3, 2020

Vikings clinch spot in GNAC Championships

Forward Dayana Diaz beats Seattle Pacific University defenders for a shot on the goal on Thursday, Oct. 24. // Photo by Grady Haskell

By Wilson Turk

The Western women’s soccer team clinched a spot in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) championships in Seattle with a 3-0 win over rival Seattle Pacific University on Thursday, Oct. 24, at Robert S. Harrington Field.

After the victory, Western is ranked first in GNAC with a record of 12-2-0 and 8-0-0 against GNAC teams, followed by SPU with a record of 8-6-0 and 6-2-0 against GNAC teams. 

The match started with Western’s women on the attack, and for the first 37 minutes, SPU’s defense was able to hold them off. The Vikings finally broke through  when freshman Estera Levinte, from Bothell, Washington, received a throw-in and passed the ball to junior Jenna Killman, from Olympia, Washington, inside of the penalty box. Killman took one touch, and shot the ball into the upper right corner of the goal to put Western on the board. 

The Vikings weren’t done in the first half. Four minutes after their first goal, the Vikings controlled the ball and it was passed to Levinte, who beat two defenders to cross the ball back into the box. junior Darby Doyle, from Spokane, Washington, with one-touch, placed the ball into the lower left corner past the goalkeeper to put the Vikings up 2-0 before the half. 

Going into the game, Vikings coach Travis Connell wanted the team to pressure in the attacking third of the field to force SPU to turn over the ball.

“At times we did that really successfully, and other times, they were able to break through our pressure,” Connell said.

At the start of the second half, SPU attacked and applied pressure on the Viking defense. In the 56th minute, the Vikings worked the ball up the left side and again Levinte beat her mark. Levinte took a shot that SPU’s goalkeeper got a leg to but couldn’t keep out of the net, and the Vikings had their third goal. 

Levinte finished the game with two assists and a goal. 

“Estera was fantastic, but it doesn’t happen without the work of [junior Karli White, from North Bend, Washington] puts in for the first 25 minutes of the game,” Connell said. “The players really buy into the team attitude where there are multiple players that play in each half and together, they are going to break the [opposing] team down. It worked out really well today because Estera was lights out.”

Levinte said the reason the Vikings won was due to the performance of all of the players working together. 

“I think we worked really hard,” Levinte said. “The only way we finished was because we all worked together. I was just a part of it, but everyone else was doing their part so that’s how we came out with the win.”

The Vikings’ junior goalkeeper Natalie Dierickx, from Kirkland Washington, ended the game with three saves and no goals allowed. This shutout is her fourth of the season and 12th of her career. After Thursday’s game, Dierickx is one shutout away from becoming tied for ninth for the most shutouts by a goalkeeper in Western women’s soccer history. 

Dierickx, with only four goals allowed and 29 saves this season, credits the number of shutouts to her defenders for not letting shots be taken on the goal.

In the last minutes of the game, SPU controlled the game and attacked the goal. Dierickx described those minutes as “nerve-racking.”

“I have a lot of confidence of my players in front of me, and things can get frazzling sometimes, but our team is built on dealing with that pressure, so I wasn’t really worried,” Dierickx said.

The victory against SPU marked the 250th win for the Viking women under coach Connell.

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