Written by Student Assistant Jake Bilyeu
TACOMA, Wash. – After earning just one point last weekend in a pair of outings at East Field, the Pacific Lutheran University men's soccer team hopes to rebound this weekend, traveling to Oregon to face Northwest Conference rivals George Fox University and Pacific University.
The Lutes' (3-4-2, 1-2-1 NWC) 1-1 double overtime tie to Whitworth University and 2-0 setback to Whitman College dropped the team to sixth place in the league standings. However, the team can jump right back into the top half of the conference with a pair of strong performances this weekend. The Bruins and Boxers sit just ahead of PLU at 2-2 in conference, and two wins would be enough to push the Lutes ahead, regardless of how their foes fare in their games against the University of Puget Sound.
To accomplish this, though, the Lutes will have to mentally recuperate and prepare themselves for the challenges ahead of them. Head coach John Yorke has been stressing this with his team since they got off the field Sunday.
"We were a little disappointed with our competitive spirit last weekend,'" Yorke said. "I think we're pretty good as a soccer team, and this week we have more mental work than physical work, and so we're working on our confidence and our competitiveness a lot this week."
As Yorke led his team's practice on Tuesday evening, he noticed that his words were already sticking with his players.
"I like a lot of things about this team, but one thing that I especially enjoy is that they have great intentions, so they've come out with a great attitude this week," Yorke said. "They've worked hard already this week, and I think they know that they expect more from themselves, and they're willing to prove it."
Knowing that he can count on his veteran leaders to stay focused during the wear and tear of conference play has been huge. Lately, he's been concerning himself with his younger players, and ensuring that they're given the tools to succeed as the team aims to get back to their winning ways.
"I think our leadership is good; it's not a problem we face," Yorke said. "The obstacle we have to face is the young, new guys in the program trying to figure out what college soccer is about, and finding the confidence to be able to compete at that level that is necessary to win."
Regardless of their level of experience, each Lute is hoping to bring some extra effort and intensity to the team's performances this weekend. PLU sets its sights first on the Bruins at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, and then on the Boxers, who they'll face at noon on Sunday.
Sept. 30: PLU vs. George Fox in Newberg, Oregon (1:30 p.m.)
Series History: The Lutes enjoy a 38-9-1 edge in the all-time series, winning 18 of the last 19 meetings. The Lutes smashed the Bruins 4-1 on Sept. 17 last season before scoring four times in the second half in a 6-2 win on Oct. 30 in Tacoma.
About the Bruins: George Fox (4-6, 2-2 NWC) has earned weekend splits in each of the last two weeks to open NWC play. The Bruins tallied two scores in a three-minute stretch in the opening half while keeper Andrew Phillis tallied eight saves in a 2-0 win over Linfield College on Sept. 22. George Fox's fortunes were reversed two days later, falling 2-0 to Willamette University.
Moises Manon is GFU's top offensive weapon, scoring four goals on the season while Daniel Alonzo has two goals and one assist. Phillis and Austin Burdick have split time in goal for the Bruins with Phillis netting 28 saves and a 1.69 goals against average while Burdick has logged a team-best 545 minutes in goal.
Oct. 1: PLU vs. Pacific in Forest Grove, Oregon (12 p.m.)
Series History: PLU owns a commanding 44-14-4 advantage in the all-time series, winning 10 of the last 12 encounters. The Boxers swept the Lutes last season, collecting a 2-1 double overtime win on Sept. 18 before earning another win on Oct. 29 in Tacoma by an identical 2-1 scoreline.
About the Boxers: Pacific (5-3, 2-2 NWC) heads into the weekend having dropped two of its last three games. The Boxers were bested 4-0 by Whitman on the road on Sept. 17 before suffering a 3-0 setback to Willamette University on Sept. 22. Pacific returned to the win column on Sunday with Weli Alamillo scoring in the 57th minute in a 2-1 win over host Linfield.
Matt Kimball leads the Boxers in both goals (four) and points (nine) while Diego Lopes has a team-best three assists. Leyton Thommasen has logged a majority of the time between the posts in goal for Pacific, owning a 1.17 goals against average with 24 saves.