SEASON IN REVIEW: Since 2003 Pacific Lutheran's men's soccer team has finished in the top half of the NWC every season, and this year was no different. The Lutes finished out their season with a 10-7-2 overall record, 9-4-1 in the conference, and placed second in the NWC. This is the Lutes' eighth straight year with an above .500 record and double-digit wins. It also marked the fourth straight season that they have led the conference in goals. Coach John Yorke was enthusiastic about the season, saying, "Although we are disappointed in our second place finish in the conference, there were many positives to celebrate. We are excited about our young guys and are hoping for a strong recruiting class." The Lutes had the NWC's Offensive MVP for the fifth time in the last eight seasons and had nine players named to the all-conference Team.
LUTES OPEN SEASON WITH HIGH EXPECTATIONS: The Lutes opened their 2012 season with big expectations coming off their conference title and NCAA playoff appearance in 2011. In the NSCAA/Continental Tire Division III Men's Soccer National Preseason Poll, PLU ranked 25th in the nation coming into the 2012 season. They were also picked by five out of the eight NWC coaches to be first in conference. But perhaps the biggest challenge of the 2012 season was filling the shoes of the trio of senior record setters: forward Spencer Augustin, the 2011 NWC Offensive Player of the Year, earned second team All-American honors after scoring 19 goals; forward Chad Kearns a three-time first team all-conference selection; and midfielder Surafel Wodajo, the PLU men's soccer career assist leader. While the Lutes didn't successfully defend their conference title, they were in the title chase nearly until the end.
LUTES FACE STRONG PRE-CONFERENCE COMPETITIORS: The Lutes began their 2012 campaign in Minnesota, where they faced Hamline University, Augsburg College, and St. Olaf.
Keeper Joe Rayburn and his defense recorded their first shutout of the year in a 1-0 victory over host Hamline in their season opener. Hamline managed just four shots against the Lutes, who controlled most of the action. The game's only goal came at 76:15 when Giancarlo Santoro took a pass from Justin Manao on the left, touched the ball inside to his right foot and then hit a hard, dipping shot from about 25 yards past Hamline's keeper. The Lutes outshot Hamline 12-1 as they found their tempo in the second half.
PLU started out strong against Augsburg, with Emmanuel Amarh notching his first goal of the year in the first half. But the Lutes couldn't find their footing to come back after Augsburg scored a pair of goals in the first 15 minutes of the second half. Augsburg went on to beat the Lutes 2-1. Amarh, a freshman from Norway, scored an unassisted goal at 31:11 to give the Lutes the early lead.
An own goal fluke during the first overtime period was the only factor in PLU's 3-2 loss to St. Olaf. Junior forward Derek Johnson netted his first goal of the season at 61:42 to tie the match 1-1, and freshman forward Emmanuel Amarh, on an assist by Shane Gutierrez, notched his second of the campaign at 79:44 to give PLU a 2-1 advantage. While PLU outshot St. Olaf 14-11, a deflection just 1:37 into the overtime period sent the ball bouncing over the head of keeper Joe Rayburn and gave St. Olaf the golden goal.
LUTES OPEN CONFERENCE WITH A BANG: The Lutes opened their conference play strong with a four-game winning streak. The Lutes opened on fire in their first conference game versus visiting George Fox where they won by a dominant score of 5-0. Brenden Cohen's goal, a blasting shot from 18 yards out in the middle of the first half, started the goal campaign. Derek Johnson, and Giancarlo Santoro had a goal each and Emmanuel Amarh added two of his own. The Lutes took a win the next day too, beating Pacific University 2-0 off of goals from Cohen and freshman forward Jordan Downing. The Lutes continued their winning streak on the road the next weekend, visiting Linfield and Willamette where they took home 3-0 and 2-1 wins. The Lutes winning streak was finally put to an end against 11th ranked Whitworth.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Forward Emmanuel Amarh, a freshman from Norway, was recognized by the NWC and named Northwest Conference Men's Soccer Offensive Student-Athlete of the Week on Oct. 30. The award came after his two goals in the match against Pacific, providing crucial offensive in the tight 3-2 victory. Amarh led the Northwest Conference with nine goals and 24 points and was named to the first team all-Northwest Conference and NWC Offensive MVP at the end of the season. Derek Johnson, a junior forward from Tacoma, also earned NWC Offensive Student-Athlete fo the Week recognition, that coming on Sept. 25 after a two-goal performance in a win over Willamette. Johnson finished with nine goals and 23 points and like Amarh was a first team all-conference pick.
NWC ALL-LEAGUE RECOGNITION: PLU men's soccer players had a great year in terms of recognition by conference coaches. Derek Johnson, Emmanuel Amarh and Giancarlo Santoro were all named to first team all-conference. Three more Lutes were also named to second team all-conference: Joe Rayburn, Shane Gutierez, and Kevin Wien. Taylor Jackson, Brenden Cohen, and Jeff Piaquadio were named as honorable mentions. The Lutes also had the NWC Offensive MVP for the third year in a row as Emmanuel Amarh received that honor after leading the league in goals and total points.
NSCAA ALL-REGION RECOGNITION: Two Lutes were named to the NSCAA All-West Region Team. Emmanuel Amarh was selected to the first team and Giancarlo Santoro, who finished 2012 with four goals and three assists, was selected to the third team.
ALL-ACADEMIC RECOGNITION: Goalkeeper Joe Rayburn not only had a great year in goal but he also was excellent in the classroom and was chosen to the Capital One All District Academic Team. He was the only soccer player chosen from the entire Northwest Conference. His name was advanced for consideration as a Capital One Academic All-American. Last year, PLU seniors Aaron Grossberg and Spencer Augustin earned capital One Academic All-American honors. Rayburn was among the conference leaders with a 1.12 goals against average. He was also the team's starting keeper a year ago when PLU won the program's first conference title since 1992. "Joe has been one of the conference's best keepers over the last two years, and he also takes his academic work very seriously. He really deserves this honor," PLU head coach John Yorke said. Members of the College Sports Information Directors Association nominate and vote on student-athletes who meet various requirements including at least sophomore academic standing with a 3.30 grade point average or above.
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By Brenna Sussman, PLU Sports Information Assistant