Simon Fraser Picked To Repeat As Men's Soccer Champion
Simon Fraser went 14-1-3 in 2016 with the Clan's only loss coming in a 1-0 match against Western Washington.
Simon Fraser went 14-1-3 in 2016 with the Clan's only loss coming in a 1-0 match against Western Washington.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

PORTLAND, Ore. – Coming off its second conference title in four years, Simon Fraser stands as unanimous favorites to repeat as GNAC champions in the 2017 Preseason Men’s Soccer Coaches Poll.

Simon Fraser received all seven first-place votes as the Clan compete for their fifth conference title in their eighth season as GNAC members. Western Washington, fresh off its first NCAA Tournament appearance, was picked second with 39 points. Montana State Billings was picked third (31 pts.) followed by Northwest Nazarene (28 pts.), Seattle Pacific (26 pts.), Saint Martin’s (13 pts.) and Concordia (10 pts.).

The Clan led all teams in goals, assists and fewest goals allowed in conference play. Finishing with a 9-1-2 GNAC record, Simon Fraser outshot opponents by a 291-126 margin and scored 2.36 goals per game, 1.77 higher than the league average. Last year marked the fifth time Simon Fraser has captured the GNAC championship since joining the conference in 2010.

The Clan’s only regular season loss was a 1-0 setback at Western Washington on Nov. 3.

Despite losing goalkeeper Brandon Watson, who ranks second in GNAC history with a 0.75 goals against average, the Clan return the GNAC and D2CCA West Region Player of the Year midfielder Adam Jones and GNAC Defensive Player of the Year Magnus Kristensen. Currently seventh on the career list with 1.46 goals per game, Jones, notched a team-high 10 goals for a SFU squad that outscored its conference opponents 33-9. Along with earning NSCAA and D2CCA honors last season, Kristensen tallied three goals and one assist.

Midfielder Mamadi Camara comes back after receiving First Team All-GNAC and NSCAA All-West Region honors. GNAC Freshman of the Year forward Riley Pang is accompanied by junior midfielder Kyle Jones and senior defender Pascal Schmidt to a team that lost six starters, three of which helped the Clan maintain a league-leading 0.75 goals against percentage.

Finishing in seventh place just two years ago, Western Washington finds itself ranked right behind Simon Fraser, taking a majority of the second-place votes. The Vikings ended 2016 with a 6-3-3 conference record and rode a six-game unbeaten streak into its first Division II Men’s Soccer Tournament appearance, where they defeated Dixie State in the first round.

Two of the four Vikings who netted NSCAA All-West Region Honors last year return for their senior seasons. Forward Anthony Dean netted eight goals while goalkeeper Tyler Visten recorded seven shutouts. Visten sits at No. 12 in the GNAC Men’s Soccer Record Book with a 1.21 goals against average. First Team All-GNAC honoree Luke Olney also returns for his senior season after recording three goals and one assist for the Vikings.

Western Washington returns 10 starters, five of which played for the team’s solid defensive core. All five made at least 18 appearances during the campaign for a squad that allowed just 19 goals and recorded a 0.94 goals against average all season.

The league’s fourth place team in 2016, Montana State Billings, snags third place in the coaches’ poll with 31 points. The Yellowjackets ranked second in the GNAC with 27 goals and 25 assists.

Montana State Billings returns 16 letterwinners, seven of which were starters for fifth year head coach Alex Balog. The West Region’s leading goal scorer two years ago, Ricardo Palomino, returns for his senior campaign while Second Team All-GNAC defender Oliver Posarelli comes back after a stellar inaugural season. Balog also brings in six freshmen and three transfers to an improved Yellowjacket’s squad.

Ending the season tied for second with WWU, Northwest Nazarene has finished in the top three in each of the last three years. With the loss of seven starters to open the 2017 campaign, NNU takes fourth in the coaches’ poll.

The Crusaders return sophomore First Team-All GNAC defender Linus Mansson along with junior forward Logan Wood. Wood tallied a joint team-high five goals and two assists in just nine starts. Northwest Nazarene lose goalkeeper Ryan Foo and defender Steven Garcia, who both played a crucial role in NNU’s league-leading efforts in saves and shutouts.

Seattle Pacific suffered its lowest GNAC finish in program history after ending in fifth place with a 4-4-4 record. Winning the conference championship just two years ago, SPU look to rely on midfielder Jess Cayetano and forward Gabe Kellum for quality offensive output in 2017.

Along with two starting defenders not returning, the Falcons also lose goalkeeper Cody Lang, who sits third all-time in goals against average (0.80) for the GNAC. Ryan Higgins, Julian White and Luke Postma all return as starting defensemen.

After a season that saw Saint Martin’s conclude 2-9-1 in conference play, the Saints return seven starters, most notably senior forward Kyle Witzel, who finished tied for second with nine conference goals a year ago. Saint Martin’s also bring back midfielder Christian Caro, midfielder Joey Mack, forward McKray Kohn, defender Tim Teipel and defender Austin Yon for their senior years.

Head coach Rob Walker will take over the men’s program full time after coaching both the men’s and women’s team for the past 11 years. Walker managed 52 wins with the men’s program during that stretch.

Concordia rounds out the voting after finishing 1-9-2 in its second year of GNAC participation. The Cavaliers will compete in its first year as full Division II members in 2017. Concordia lose leading goal scorer Matt Paine, but return a trio of starting sophomores (forward Christian Thyron, forward Essam Nicola, forward Kieran McMinn) who recorded a combined total of seven goals and seven assists.

All seven GNAC teams begin regular season action on August 31 against non-conference opponents. Northwest Nazarene travels to Montana State Billings on Sep. 21 to open GNAC play, followed by Saint Martin’s at Western Washington and Simon Fraser at Seattle Pacific. Concordia begins its conference slate on Sep. 23 at MSUB.

Rank Team (1st Place Votes) 2016 Record GNAC Record (Finish) Points
1. Simon Fraser (6) 14-1-3 9-1-2 (1st) 49
2. Western Washington 10-5-4 6-3-3 (tie 2nd) 39
3. Montana State Billings 9-6-3 5-4-3 (4th) 31
4. Northwest Nazarene 9-5-4 6-3-3 (tie 2nd) 28
5. Seattle Pacific 6-6-5 4-4-4 (5th) 26
6. Saint Martin's 3-13-1 2-9-1 (6th) 13
7. Concordia 4-10-3 1-9-2 (7th) 10
Points awarded on a 7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis.