Falcon XC, Soccer Stars Are GNAC Players Of The Week
SPU's Annika Esvelt was the top GNAC performer at the Pacific Lutheran Invitational, placing second on Saturday.
SPU's Annika Esvelt was the top GNAC performer at the Pacific Lutheran Invitational, placing second on Saturday.

Monday, September 18, 2023
by Evan O'Kelly

PORTLAND, Ore. – Standout performances by Seattle Pacific student-athletes on the cross country trail and soccer pitch headlined the latest edition of Great Northwest Athletic Conference Players of the Week announced on Monday.

The Falcons swept the women’s soccer offensive and defensive awards after an upset of No. 2 Colorado Mines on Saturday on the road. Forward Taylor Krueger had a hand in both goals, while Mercedes Cullen made seven big saves in her first start of the year. In cross country, the Falcons’ Annika Esvelt was the conference’s top performer while Central Washington’s Johan Correa earned his second runner of the week honor this fall.

Undefeated weekends for the Western Washington and Simon Fraser men’s soccer teams earned them the players of the week, with the Vikings’ Albin Jonsson garnering offensive honors and the Red Leafs’ Justyn Sandhu claiming the defensive nod. Volleyball offensive player of the week Bethany Tuchardt led Alaska Anchorage to a 4-0 record in Arkansas, while defensive player of the week Tia Andaya recorded the conference’s first triple-double of the season.


Women’s Runner of the Week: Annika Esvelt – Seattle Pacific

The conference’s top performer at the Pacific Lutheran Invitational, Esvelt finished as the runner up among a field of 95 competitors on Saturday. The junior checked in with a time of 21:41.3 in the 6k race, finishing more than 15 seconds ahead of the next GNAC runner. In her debut race of the 2023 season, it was the first time Esvelt broke the 22:00 barrier in a 6k race collegiately.

Also Nominated: Rachael Watkins, SFU.

Men’s Runner of the Week: Johan Correa – Central Washington

Claiming his second victory of the 2023 season, Correa topped a field of 128 runners at the Pacific Lutheran Invitational on Saturday. Correa clocked an 8k time of 24:23.7, holding off second-place Sebastian Brinkman of Simon Fraser by four full seconds. After winning the Puget Sound Invitational on Sept. 2, Correa again emerged on top of the individual list in a race that featured competition from two other GNAC schools in Simon Fraser and Seattle Pacific.

Also Nominated: Andrew Rush, MSUB; Brody Kemble, NNU; Sebastian Brinkman, SFU.


Offensive Player of the Week: Taylor Krueger – Seattle Pacific

Krueger’s first career goal was a big one as it pulled the Falcons level with No. 2 Colorado Mines at 1-1 in the 35th minute. She followed with an assist on the game-winning goal in the 69th minute, giving SPU the largest upset by a GNAC women’s soccer team thus far in 2023.

Also Nominated: Tatum Zuber, CWU; Kendall McGraw, MSUB; Nicole Lewis, NNU; Taylor Copeland, SMU.

Defensive Player of the Week: Mercedes Cullen – Seattle Pacific

Cullen complemented Krueger’s efforts by making seven key saves amid a barrage of shots from the second-ranked team in the country. Cullen guided the Falcons to victory while facing 17 shots throughout the match, including 11 in the first half. The sophomore did not disappoint in her first start of the season, finishing one off her career high in saves.

Also Nominated: Lauren Becraft, MSUB; Rose Ivanis, SMU.


Offensive Player of the Week: Albin Jonsson – Western Washington

Leading the Vikings to a pair of victories last week, Jonsson tallied three goals including two game-winners. Jonsson tucked away his first finish just 20 minutes into the Vikings’ 3-0 triumph over Colorado School of Mines on Thursday. He followed with a 15th-minute strike against Regis on Saturday, which held up as the game-winner in the 2-0 result. Jonsson vaulted his name to the top of the GNAC leaderboard with five goals this season.

Also Nominated: Ty Vohland, MSUB; Arjun Gill, SMU; Orlando Erazo, SPU; Koji Poon, SFU.

Defensive Player of the Week: Justyn Sandhu – Simon Fraser

Sandhu was instrumental in the Red Leafs’ undefeated weekend, as he played all 180 minutes between the posts without conceding a goal. Sandhu made seven saves – one off his season high – in SFU’s 1-0 victory over Fort Lewis on Thursday while facing 16 shots. He followed with four more saves against Colorado Mesa on Saturday, playing a crucial role in the eventual 0-0 draw against the Mavericks. Sandhu ranks second in the GNAC this season with 5.00 saves per game and first in the conference in both goals against average (0.67) and save percentage (.882).

Also Nominated: Jeremi Campagnolo, MSUB; Seth Kobata, SMU; Mitchell Wilson, SPU; Juan Suarez, WOU; Mitchell Hutter, WWU.


Offensive Player of the Week: Bethany Tuchardt – Alaska Anchorage

Tuchardt averaged 3.31 kills per set on .475 hitting to help the Seawolves to a 4-0 record (12-1 in sets) at the Reddie-Tiger Invitational in Arkadelphia, Ark. Tuchardt hit at least .429 in all four matches, starting with eight kills on .429 hitting in a sweep of Union. The junior outside hitter ripped a then-career-high 14 kills on .565 hitting (14-1-23) and reached a career-high 16 total points with four block assists in the team’s 3-0 win over Ouachita Baptist. On Saturday Tuchardt hit .500 with four block assists in a sweep of Arkansas Monticello, and finished with a career best of 16 kills (.429, 16-1-35) in a 3-1 win over Henderson State, which had entered with a 9-2 record and eight straight wins. Tuchardt’s hitting percentage of .475 over the weekend was the second highest among all GNAC players and her average of 3.31 kills per set was fifth best. The big performance earned her all-tournament recognition as well.

Also Nominated: Karli Nielson, UAF; Scottie Ellsworth, CWU; Karla Soto, SMU; Allison Wilks, SPU; Brooke Dexter, SFU; Devyn Oestreich, WWU.

Defensive Player of the Week: Tia Andaya – Central Washington

Completing the conference’s first triple-double of the year and her GNAC-record 13th, Andaya helped the 13th-ranked Wildcats to a 3-1 victory over Western Washington on Thursday. The preseason player of the year had 36 assists to go along with 11 kills and 11 digs, while adding three total blocks. Andaya followed with a near triple double on Saturday, finishing with 22 assists, 11 digs and six kills in a match against Simon Fraser. Andaya ranked third last week among conference players with 1.57 blocks per set including 11 total blocks, while leading all conference players with a hitting percentage of .577.

Also Nominated: Madison Galloway, UAA; Rilee White, UAF; Christine Funk, MSUB; Caroline McMahon, NNU; Abigail Halstead, SMU; Hannah Hair, SPU; Kalyn Hartmann, SFU; Chloe Asciutto, WOU.