Western men's soccer earns a second win over Saint Martin’s University
In a strong show of teamwork in the face of adversity, the Western Washington University men’s soccer team left it all on the pitch to defeat Saint Martin’s University 2-1 on Saturday, May 1.
With victories in both games against Saint Martin’s this season, the Vikings are in a strong position to continue their winning season with a current record of two ties and one win (2-1-0). However, this season has been far from normal, creating a necessity for victories to be earned, not expected.
“It’s always good to go to Saint Martin’s and get a win, that's a tough place to go to play,” said Teagan Eldridge, a third-year defender and co-captain for the Vikings. “The season has been weird in a lot of ways, a lot of stopping and starting, some two week breaks … we just try to keep focused on the next game ahead.”
For Eldrige, the focus paid off after a pass from fellow captain and defender Cameron Miller set Eldrige up for an early game goal against Saint Martin’s, somewhat of a rare opportunity for a defensive player.
“It’s pretty unusual for me,” Eldridge said. “I try to contribute with as many goals as I can, but obviously keeping their kids from scoring is my number one priority.”
Western’s defense held strong in what was a statistically close matchup. Keepers for both teams made three saves, while Saint Martin’s and Western had four and five shots on goal, respectively.
Greg Brisbon, in his eighth year as head coach for the Vikings, noted that their prior game against Saint Martin’s had given the team a chance to improve before they made the two-hour drive south to enemy turf in Lacey, Washington.
“We played Saint Martin’s a few weeks ago and we did a really good job learning from the mistakes that game,” Brisbon said. “That first goal was to almost perfection of what we had talked about.”
Second-year midfielder Alessandro Tomasi followed up with a second goal for the Vikings in the 74th minute after a swift pass from junior midfielder Iakov Shmelev.
The Vikings have often defeated Saint Martin’s in the last two years — but that doesn’t mean the wins are easy.
“They are a good opponent, tough to break down and score on,” Brisbon said.
Proving that fact, the Saints made a late game rally with a shot on goal saved by Viking’s keeper Brandon Wolter in the 82nd minute. Despite the save, Cole Mattson of Saint Martin’s found another quick attack, giving the Saints their first goal in the 83rd minute.
The Vikings won 2-1 in regular time, failing to shut out the Saints.
“We knew it was not going to be easy, that we’d kind of have to grind it out,” Eldridge said.
With another win under their belts, the Vikings gear up to face another big adversary, Seattle Pacific University, in back to back games starting May 8.
According to Coach Brisbon, lack of consistent training due to COVID-19 presented challenges early in the spring season, but more than a month of steady training has helped alleviate any concerns of injury.
“We are starting to get our fitness back,” Brisbon said. “We might have one injury at the moment, where three weeks ago we had maybe three to four.”
This year the team has no division or national championship to look forward to; the Vikings have let love for the game and desire to improve be their motivation for the season.
“To be honest, I just want us to play well and play better every game,” Brisbon said.
While the team’s spirit has made improvement look easy, COVID-19 has placed significant mental strain on athletes in competitive programs. Rising to the occasion and filling new roles has not been easy.
“They’ve been coaches, they’ve been parents, they’ve been mental health professionals in some way,” said Jeff Evans, director of athletic communications at Western. “They’ve been outstanding.”
Rowan Forsythe is a visual journalism major and junior at Western. Convinced he disliked writing until his sophomore year, Rowan has now covered topics from homelessness to school sports. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and view his photography portfolio here.