Written by Student Assistant Jake Bilyeu
TACOMA, Wash. – The Pacific Lutheran University men's soccer team returns to the field this weekend with its first games of the 2017 season, hitting the road to face a pair of non-conference teams from Georgia. After spending several months away, the Lutes now come together as a team with high expectations, especially after the Northwest Conference coaches voted them to finish second in the league standings.
The Lutes (10-8-2, 7-6-1 NWC in 2016) will fly to Atlanta to take on Oglethorpe University on Friday. They'll then face off against Emory University, their hosts, on Saturday afternoon to close the Sonny Carter Invitational before flying home. Finally, the Lutes will set their sights on the home opener at East Field, where they'll welcome California Institute of Technology for an evening showdown on Monday.
Excited to play with his teammates again, senior Eddie Na hopes that the team can make a big impact as his final year as a Lute begins.
"I trained really hard in the off season and the senior year jitters have kind of gotten to me here and there, but I know that once I step on the field it will go away and I can perform how I normally do and hopefully even better than the standard I have already set," said Na who was the NWC's Offensive Player of the Year last season after leading the conference in goals (15), assists (nine), and points (39). "I am just hoping for a great start to the season and set a foundation for the rest of the season for this opening weekend."
The Lutes also have several players who will be making their debut with the team. They're bringing in seven freshmen and four new players to the field this weekend. Na and his fellow seniors hope to lead their new teammates to a successful opening weekend.
"I really enjoy every new player that has arrived into training camp, and I think all of them will be amazing players for the program for as long as they play," Na said. "From transfers to the freshmen class that have come in I think they will be valuable assets to the team throughout the season, not just the first few games, and I am very excited to see the new Lutes perform."
The Lutes have been working hard to prepare for this season, and they hope to take advantage of their first opportunity to prove themselves this weekend.
"I would love to see the team really come together and get two wins out of two in this opening weekend in Atlanta to show how much tougher we are compared to the end of last year," Na said.
The Lutes take their first steps toward vying for a conference championship this weekend, but they'll have another weekend to prepare for conference play next week when they host the University of Texas-Tyler and Wheaton College.
Sept. 1: PLU vs. Oglethorpe in Atlanta, Georgia
Series History: This is the first meeting between the Lutes and Stormy Petrels.
About the Stormy Petrels: Oglethorpe (7-6-3, 6-0-1 Southern Athletic Association in 2016) finished SAA play undefeated last season before falling 4-1 to Centre College in the SAA Tournament Semifinals on Nov. 4 to end the year. The Stormy Petrels have already played in a pair of exhibitions, earning a 2-1 win over Erskine College before earning a 2-2 draw against Clayton State University.
Sept. 2: PLU vs. Emory in Atlanta, Georgia
Series History: The Lutes and Eagles have never met on the soccer pitch.
About the Eagles: Emory (10-5-1, 3-3-1 University Athletic Association) notched its 16th consecutive winning season in 2016 and heads into this fall with 10 of the 14 goal scorers from a season ago, including Jason McCartney who had seven goals and seven assists for the squad.