Player of the Week Bankey’s Heroics Keep Falcons In First
Two late goals propelling Seattle Pacific to a come-from-behind victory earned senior Marissa Bankey GNAC Women's Soccer Offensive Player of the Week honors.
Two late goals propelling Seattle Pacific to a come-from-behind victory earned senior Marissa Bankey GNAC Women's Soccer Offensive Player of the Week honors.

Monday, October 2, 2023
by Evan O'Kelly

PORTLAND, Ore. – With its back against the wall on Saturday night at Tomlinson Stadium trailing host Central Washington 2-0, the Seattle Pacific women’s soccer team needed a bit of magic.

The Wildcats scored in the 38th minute and doubled their tally just three minutes into the second half, threatening to hand the Falcons their first conference loss and bump them out of first place. A goal by Jacqueline Blakeley in the 51st minute gave the visitors hope, but it was fifth-year senior and GNAC Offensive Player of the Week Marissa Bankey who saved the day.

A clearance out of the goal box found its way onto Bankey’s foot, and she rifled a top-shelf strike into the back of the net to pull the Falcons even 2-2 in the 75th minute. She followed with a game-winning finish on a long, arcing shot that carried just under the crossbar in the 87th minute, helping SPU up its point total to 10 and stay atop the GNAC standings.

“Marissa is a special person and player, and is someone who we can count on in those moments to arrive and do a great job,” said Falcon head coach Arby Busey. “She is a fifth-year senior who has seen and experienced most everything a soccer player can, and we really lean into that experience with her. She has a quiet, lead-by-example personality, but we needed her in the second half and she showed up and played great.”

It’s the first-career player of the week nod for a player who has been a stalwart for the Falcons since 2019, as the Spokane, Wash., native has played in 75 matches across five years. “Two goals is what the scoreboard reflects, but the manner in which she goes about it is so inspiring for her teammates,” said Busey. “Marissa elevates those around her in those moments – the ones around her are better for being in her vicinity.”

Like the Falcons, the Western Oregon women’s soccer team picked up two key wins last week to keep pace in the conference standings with nine points. GNAC Defensive Player of the Week Hannah Rispler was crucial in both matches for the Wolves, anchoring a back line that shut out both Simon Fraser and Western Washington by the score of 1-0.

“What we expected to get from Hannah in her fifth season is what we are seeing,” WOU head coach Kacey Bingham said on the veteran center back. “She is composed, smart, and is a phenomenal leader. She really focuses our whole group and gets them on track. As far as one person taking on that big of a workload, she thrives under that pressure. Every week she always comes to us asking how she can be better. Hannah thrives on wanting to be the best she can be.”


Offensive Player of the Week: Marissa Bankey, Seattle Pacific

Bankey’s brace was the first time in her five-year career at SPU that she scored multiple goals in a match, and she upped her career tally to eight goals since her debut in the fall of 2019. It also marked the fourth time since SPU joined the GNAC in 2001 that it overcame a 2-0 deficit to emerge victorious and the first time the Falcons achieved the feat since a 3-2 win over Chico State on Aug. 31, 2017. It was the second time SPU overcame a 2-0 deficit to win a road game, with the other being a 3-2 triumph over Montana State Billings on Oct. 2, 2008. Overall it was the 24th time in the 24-year history of the conference that a GNAC team has achieved the feat and the second time this season with NNU beating WOU 3-2 on Sept. 23 after trailing 2-0.

Also Nominated: Sami Huber, CWU; Jackie Sharpe, MSUB; Ravyn Mummey, SMU; Katelyn Magdialinski, SFU; Raeanne Jones, WOU.

Defensive Player of the Week: Hannah Rispler, Western Oregon

Rispler patrolled the back line for all 180 minutes last week, making it three shutouts in four GNAC games played for WOU this fall. Her efforts included a gutsy performance under heavy pressure against the reigning national champion Vikings on Saturday, as she kept her side organized while protecting a 1-0 lead in the face of a persistent WWU attack. That came after the Wolves held off Simon Fraser 1-0 on Thursday, and Rispler has played the full 90 minutes in all eight of her team’s matches this fall. This was Rispler’s first-career player of the week honor.

“The moment from the SFU game came when they were about to counter and had numbers up, and Hannah stepped in and made a big tackle. That was probably their most dangerous attacking moment,” Bingham said on the match against the Red Leafs. “In the WWU game, specifically in the second half they started throwing numbers forward from the midfield and defense. For her to have to juggle up to four players at times in the second half – she’s the one who kept us out of dangerous situations.”

Also Nominated: Danika Galbraith, CWU; Clare Keenan, MSUB; Flavia Burrell, SMU; Mercedes Cullen, SPU; Halle Noel, WWU.


Offensive Player of the Week: Alejandro Velasco, Western Oregon

Velasco vaulted to the top of the GNAC goals leaderboard with three finishes last week, giving him six on the season to lead the conference. With the Wolves trailing 2-0 early in the second half Thursday against Simon Fraser, Velasco pulled his side level in the blink of an eye with goals in the 64th and 65th minutes. After the brace in the eventual 2-2 draw, Velasco helped the Wolves grab three points on Saturday with a goal and an assist in WOU’s 2-0 blanking of Montana State Billings. The seven-point week firmly bolstered the Highline CC transfer’s name among the candidates for GNAC Newcomer of the Year.

Also Nominated: Xander Koenig, SMU; Raymundo Mendez, SPU; Koji Poon, SFU.

Defensive Player of the Week: Sawyer Price, Northwest Nazarene

Claiming one point in each of their first two conference games, the Nighthawks relied heavily on their shot stopper in both matches last week. Price had three important saves in a 1-1 draw against Seattle Pacific as the Falcons produced steady looks with 11 total shots. In the game against the Vikings, two of Price’s six saves were highlight reel stops including a diving push on a powerful strike from 20 yards out that displayed his footwork and technique. Overall on the week Price came away with nine saves and kept his side alive in both matches. Price claimed his sixth-career player of the week award, moving him into a tie for second most in GNAC history with Jason Cascio of Seattle University and Brandon Madsen of Saint Martin’s.

“He did a great job,” said NNU head coach James Williamson. “Give credit to the whole group for defending well and limiting their chances. WWU had two or three that were decent looks, but on those two or three Sawyer had himself in a good position and was able to get a good jump on it. He provided good leadership, and he is steady and reliable. Our guys can really trust him.”

Also Nominated: Jeremi Campagnolo, MSUB; Nick Mueller, SMU; Mitchell Wilson, SPU; Niko Papakyriakopoulos, SFU; Juan Suarez, WOU; Brandon Locke, WWU.


Offensive Player of the Week: Scottie Ellsworth, Central Washington

Ellsworth led all GNAC players in kills per set (4.50) last week, racking up a total of 27 to help the No. 18 Wildcats to a pair of conference victories. In a sweep of Western Oregon Thursday, Ellsworth led all players with 15 kills while hitting .343. She followed that with a dozen kills to go along with five block assists in the Wildcats’ sweep of Saint Martin’s on Saturday. This was Ellsworth’s first-career player of the week nod. Entering the week, Ellsworth ranks sixth in the GNAC in kills per set with 2.98, eighth in hitting percentage at .289, and eighth in points per set with 3.29.

“Scottie has been producing all year for us, and she is a big reason for a lot of our success,” said CWU head coach Mario Andaya. “She brings the offensive output we have needed, and she has been consistent all year. Last year she was doing some nice things, but dealt with an injury before our first match. This was her opportunity to come in and prove herself, and do the things we knew she was capable of doing.”

Also Nominated: Bethany Tuchardt, UAA; Rilee White, UAF; Karla Soto, SMU; Sarah Day, SPU; Jocelyn Sherman, SFU; Devyn Oestreich, WWU.

Defensive Player of the Week: Hannah Hair, Seattle Pacific

Hair keyed the Falcons to a pair of road victories last week, leading all GNAC players with 14 blocks and posting an average of 1.75 blocks per set. After chipping in with four block assists in SPU’s 3-1 win over Alaska on Thursday, Hair delivered five solo blocks to stifle the Alaska Anchorage attack in a 3-1 triumph on Saturday. Hair leads the GNAC with an average of 1.59 blocks per set, while ranking fifth in the league in hitting percentage at .297. Hair now has six-career player of the week awards – 4 defensive, 2 offensive – ranking her tied for seventh in GNAC history with WWU’s Marlayna Geary and NNU’s Madi Farrell.

“Hannah has been a leader on our team for several years,” said SPU head coach Jason Rhine. “She always works really hard at practice and in matches, and is a high talent for attacking and blocking. She was reading the offense well last week. She is having some really great numbers, but to me the most important thing is that she’s a really good teammate and emotional leader for us. She sets the tone, especially defensively, of how to compete hard and slow down the other team.”

Also Nominated: Reilly Plumhoff, UAA; Kristina Head, UAF; Hannah Stires, CWU; Christine Funk, MSUB; Maddy Gooding, SMU; Macyn Unger, SFU; Bella MacLellan, WOU; Emily Vossenkuhl, WWU.


Player of the Week: Kasey Gaff, Northwest Nazarene

In just the second tournament of his collegiate career, NNU freshman Kasey Gaff was the top conference performer in a field that featured all five GNAC teams by placing second at the Western Washington Invitational. Gaff was one stroke away from forcing a playoff, settling for a three-round score of 3-under-par 213 (70-73-70). Gaff’s tournament featured 10 birdies to go against just seven bogeys across his 54 holes. He started his final round with back-to-back birdies, and never looked back on his way to the second-place finish.

“His composure was not of a freshman,” said NNU head coach Fred Sutton. “He was very poised and together, and knew what he needed to do. His putting was really solid, and to birdie his last hole with a difficult putt was impressive. The last shot he hit on the last hole was fantastic. We have real high hopes for what he’s able to do in the future, and I’m looking forward to coaching him.”

Also Nominated: Denby Carswell, SFU; Nathan Yocam, WWU.