Vikings win GNAC title with stellar defense
Viking defender Jeremiah Lee (6) leaps in the air, after a corner kick, to score the game winning goal on Saturday, Nov. 9. // Photo by Grady Haskell
By Conor Wilson
Chilling rain washed over the turf at Robert S. Harrington field on Saturday night, Nov. 9, and with it the Viking men washed away an 11-year championship drought.
With a 1-0 victory over third-place Montana State University Billings, the No. 19 Viking men’s soccer team won its third regular season Great Northwest Athletic Conference title in program history, and first since 2008.
The top spot in the GNAC also secures the Vikings’ spot in this year’s NCAA Division II championship tournament. This will be the team’s second tournament appearance in program history and first since 2016, according to the team’s website.
The win improves the Vikings’ record to 9-0-1 in conference play and 12-3-1 overall. The victory also extends the team’s winning streak to eight games and its unbeaten streak to 11.
Although the team only needed a tie across its final three games to secure the GNAC title, the Vikings came out fast, controlling most of the possession and outshooting the Yellowjackets 11-2 in the first half.
The Vikings broke through in the 54th minute, when senior defender and team captain Jeremiah Lee volleyed a corner kick — delivered by junior midfielder Georg Cholewa — into the lower right corner just beyond the goalkeeper’s reach for his second goal of the season.
“Everyone was fantastic,” said seven-year head coach Greg Brisbon. “Jerimiah came up big as a senior captain scoring the game winner. That was special.”
The Vikings defense continued its success throughout the game, holding MSUB to only six shots all game, none of which were on target.
“[Our defense] is definitely a big part of our success,” said Brisbon. “Our backline, whoever goes back there, our goalkeepers have been fantastic and at the end of the day if the other team doesn’t score, we can’t lose.”
Western has conceded only four goals across ten games of conference play according to the GNAC’s website, seven less than the next closest team.
“The defense played lights out tonight like always,” freshman goalkeeper Brandon Locke said. “It’s insane how good we can be when we play to potential.”
The Vikings’ current winning streak of eight games is the longest streak since 2007 and is five games behind the program record of 13 set in 1989.
“We went from [my] first year winning I think five games on the season to winning the title with two games remaining,” Lee said. “It’s a fantastic feeling and seeing the progression as a player for myself, and as a team growing together and really changing the culture.”
Western will face off with second place Simon Fraser University in its final home game of the GNAC season Thursday, Nov. 14, at 7 p.m. at Harrington field.