Written by Student Assistant Jake Bilyeu
TACOMA, Wash. – The Pacific Lutheran University men's soccer team has one final weekend to prepare before embarking on the Northwest Conference season. The Lutes will go to battle at home at East Field this weekend against the University of Texas Tyler and Wheaton College. PLU hopes to get some last minute game experience before heading south for its first NWC road trip against Linfield College and Willamette University on Sept. 16 & 17.
After seeing tremendous improvement in the Lute's (1-2) first home game, a 4-0 whitewash of California Institute of Technology on Monday, head coach John Yorke hopes the team can tune up the rest of their game against stiff competition.
"Heading into this final weekend we are looking forward to two very competitive games against two traditionally very strong opponents," Yorke said. "We're looking forward to testing ourselves and more importantly cementing our commitment to the areas of our team that we want to solidify before we get into the regular season."
As the newest Lutes continue to grow into their roles with the team, two veteran players have also been making big strides lately. Yorke hopes they can continue to do so as the team readies their push for conference contention.
"Joe Sammartino is a highlight. He was injured most of last year and has been really strong to start the season," Yorke said. "Chris Trussel has undergone a position change with us and has adapted really well to it and has been very strong there."
Above all, Yorke is happy to see some excellent leadership coming from his most experienced players, as many of them, including seniors Eddie Na and Bennett Bugbee, hope their final season with the Lutes can also be their most memorable.
"I really like our recommitment to our cultural standards and hard work both in the off-season and in the start of this season," Yorke said. "This group has done a great job already of showing leadership to our younger players and getting them involved in what it means to be a PLU men's soccer player."
The team hopes to show their weekend opponents what it means to be a Lute as well, as two wins would push them to a winning record for the first time this season.
Sept. 8: PLU vs Texas Tyler at East Field (3 PM)
Series History: The Lutes and Patriots have met just once on the soccer pitch with PLU emerging on top by a 2-1 scoreline in double overtime back on Sept. 3, 2015. PLU is no stranger to teams from Texas, owning a 5-4-1 record against the Lone Star State.
About the Patriots: Texas Tyler (1-0-1) heads to the Pacific Northwest undefeated after earning a huge 1-0 victory over Redlands (Calif.) to open the season before salvaging a 1-1 double overtime draw against NAIA opponent Our Lady of the Lake (Texas).
Lucas Pereira tallied the game-winner over Redlands and currently leads the Patriots with three points on the season (one goal and one assist). John McGuffin has logged all 200 minutes between the posts for UTT, logging seven saves on the season.
Sept. 9: PLU vs Wheaton at East Field (6 PM)
Series History: The Lutes and Thunder have met just twice on the soccer pitch with the all-time series deadlocked at one win apiece. Wheaton (then called the Crusaders) ousted the Lutes 2-0 in 1986 before PLU leveled the series in 2012 with a 2-0 win on Sept. 7 in Spokane, Wash.
About the Thunder: Wheaton (1-1) opened the season with a bang, pummeling Saint Olaf (Minn.) on Sept. 1 before dropping a 2-1 decision to Loras (Iowa) the following day.
Against St. Olaf, the floodgates opened in the second half with host Wheaton scoring the contest's first goal just 70 seconds into the second half. The Thunder padded its advantage with a goal in the 71st minute and another just four minutes later.
Against Loras, the visiting Duhawks scored 45 seconds in and added another in the 68th minute. Will Woodfin scored in the 90 minute for the Thunder but it proved too little too late.