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Goalscoring Race Is On As Mejia, Yilmaz Each Tally Three
Alex Mejia (No. 12) scored a hat trick against Saint Martin's on Saturday. He's now averaging more than a goal per match.
Alex Mejia (No. 12) scored a hat trick against Saint Martin's on Saturday. He's now averaging more than a goal per match.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

First, there was McGwire and Sosa. Now there’s Mejia and Yilmaz.

The two prolific strikers each added three goals to their season totals this week, with Seattle Pacific’s Alex Mejia at 11 goals and MSUB’s Halil Yilmaz sitting at nine. No other GNAC player has more than six.

After a 2-0 week that included a 2-1 win over Northwest Nazarene in a match-up of the conference’s last two unbeatens, Seattle Pacific climbed to the top of the standings and swept the GNAC Player of the Week awards. Mejia won the offensive honor with his three goals and an assist, while Nik Reierson won the defensive award for leading a defensive effort that held two opponents to one goal. The Falcons moved up one spot to No. 7 in the United Soccer Coaches national poll.

Mejia did all of his damage in a dominant 6-0 win over Saint Martin’s, scoring the first two goals of the match inside the first 12 minutes before completing the hat trick in the 52nd minute. He becomes the third GNAC player to score a hat trick this year and now is averaging over a goal per match.

Yilmaz, who has two hat tricks on the season, scored twice in a 3-0 win against Saint Martin’s before punching in a 30-yard free kick to give the Yellowjackets a 1-0 lead over Northwest Nazarene. But in what could be a key moment in the conference race, the Nighthawks rallied to score twice in the final five minutes for a stunning 2-1 victory over MSUB on the road. Late heroics were also needed when Western Washington played Simon Fraser on Saturday night, as Drew Farnsworth scored a golden goal in the 95th minute to give the Vikings a key 1-0 GNAC win.

Looking ahead, Saint Martin’s will play a non-conference game midweek, hosting Warner Pacific on Tuesday before the Saints travel to Northwest Nazarene in the only GNAC match of the week for both schools. Western Washington will get a chance to see both Mejia and Yilmaz up close and personal, as SPU and MSUB both travel to Harrington Field this week.

GNAC PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

OFFENSE
Alex Mejia, Seattle Pacific
F • 6-2 • Senior • Seattle, Wash.
Mejia erupted for three goals and an assist in a 6-0 win over Saint Martin’s on Saturday. He netted two goals in the opening 12 minutes and then found the back of the net on a 6-yard header in the 52nd minute. His assist was nearly a fourth goal, as his diving header was saved before Judah Johnston put in the rebound.

Also Nominated: Halil Yilmaz (MSUB), Drew Farnsworth (WWU)

DEFENSE
Nik Reierson, Seattle Pacific
D • 5-11 • Sophomore • Duvall, Wash.
Reierson anchored a defense that surrendered just one goal on 21 shots against Northwest Nazarene and Saint Martin’s. Reierson also converted a game-winning penalty kick against NNU before assisting on the goal that completed Alex Mejia’s hat trick versus Saint Martin’s.

Also Nominated: Luca Batistotti (MSUB), Brandon Locke (WWU)

AROUND THE GNAC

MONTANA STATE BILLINGS

• Montana State Billings beat Saint Martin’s 3-0 on Thursday before losing the lead late against Northwest Nazarene in a 2-1 loss on Saturday.
• Halil Yilmaz had a three-goal week to lead the Yellowjackets once again. Against Saint Martin’s, Yilmaz found the net twice, including the game-winner six minutes into the match. He saved his best for last, with a curling 30-yard free kick goal against NNU that was the only goal of the match until the 85th minute.
• Yilmaz ranks second in the GNAC in goals (nine), points (19) and shots (36). Yilmaz’s goal-per-match pace is tied for seventh in Division II. He ranks 11th in Division II with four shots per match.
• Senior midfielder Paul Cuevas scored the third goal against Saint Martin’s, his third of the year. Cuevas’s previous two goals and one assist all came in the same game against South Dakota Mines on Sept. 15. Cuevas and junior forward Austin Shafer (two) are MSUB’s only multi-goal scorers aside from Yilmaz.
• Midfielders Marvin Putu and Jeremie Briquet have four assists apiece, tied for second in the GNAC.
• Goalkeeper Georgios Theodoulidis ranks fourth in the GNAC with 35 total saves and third in the GNAC with 3.89 saves per match.
• Montana State Billings will travel to Simon Fraser on Thursday and Western Washington on Saturday.

NORTHWEST NAZARENE
• Northwest Nazarene was involved in a pair of 2-1 decisions this week, losing by that score to No. 7 Seattle Pacific on Thursday before winning by that score over Montana State Billings on Saturday.
• Trailing 1-0 with five minutes to play against MSUB, the Nighthawks received goals from Jimmy Koufidakis in the 85th minute and Nils Knosala in the 89th minute for a stunning come-from-behind victory.
• Junior midfielder Ethan Atterberry scored late against Seattle Pacific for his first goal in an NNU jersey since transferring from Division I UC Davis.
• All three goals that NNU scored this week were unassisted. The Nighthawks have six unassisted goals this year, most in the GNAC.
• It was Koufidakis’ first goal of the season to go along with his team-leading three assists. Knosala is now tied with Sebastien Cotrau and Lukas Juodkunaitis for the team lead with three goals.
• Sophomore goalkeeper Sawyer Price is third in the GNAC in goals against average (1.4) and saves (37).
• Northwest Nazarene plays only once this week, against Saint Martin’s at home on Saturday.

SAINT MARTIN’S
• Saint Martin’s lost a pair of matches this week, 3-0 to Montana State Billings on Thursday and 6-0 to Seattle Pacific on Saturday.
• Sophomore goalkeeper Hunter Askland has been asked to do a lot by the Saints. While he leads the GNAC in goals conceded, he also leads the conference and ranks 31st in Division II with 42 saves. He made 10 this week, including six against Montana State Billings.
• Jason Fairhurst leads the team and is tied for sixth in the GNAC in both goals (three) and points (eight). Fairhurst’s team-leading 17 shots rank tied for eighth in the conference.
• Senior defender Stephen Murray has been an iron man on the Saints’ back line. Murray is one of two GNAC players with over 900 minutes played this season, alongside WWU’s Gus Diehl.
• Saint Martin’s will play a non-conference home game against Warner Pacific on Tuesday. The Saints then travel to Nampa for a GNAC matchup with Northwest Nazarene on Saturday.

SEATTLE PACIFIC
• Seattle Pacific jumped to the top of the conference standings with a 2-0 week. The Falcons gave Northwest Nazarene their first conference defeat, winning 2-1 on Thursday, then topped Saint Martin’s 6-0 on Saturday.
• Alex Mejia continued his torrid offensive season. He was held scoreless against NNU for the first time this season but more than made up for it with a hat trick plus an assist against Saint Martin’s. For his seven-point week, Mejia earned his second GNAC Offensive Player of the Week award of the year.
• Mejia leads the GNAC in goals (11), points (24) and shots (41). His rate of 2.6 shots on goal per match ranks second in Division II, and his 1.1 goals per match rank fifth in Division II.
• Alden Massey and Nik Reierson scored against Northwest Nazarene. Reierson won the GNAC Defensive Player of the Week award as the Falcons defense allowed 21 shots and one goal this week.
• Aside from Mejia’s hat trick, SPU received goals from Massey, Judah Johnston and Joey Van Horn against the Saints. Massey’s six goals rank third in the GNAC behind Mejia and MSUB’s Halil Yilmaz.
• The Falcons rose one spot to No. 7 in the United Soccer Coaches national poll. They lead the GNAC in shots (144), goals (28), assists (25), goals against average (1.10) and shutouts (4).
• Seattle Pacific will clash with in-state rival Western Washington in Bellingham on Thursday before traveling north of the border to Simon Fraser on Saturday.

SIMON FRASER
• Simon Fraser fell in the 95th minute of their only match this week, losing 1-0 in overtime at Western Washington.
• Simon Fraser’s defense did a tremendous job in front of goalkeeper Aidan Bain, holding the Vikings to just four shots with one on target before the winning goal was scored.
• Defensive battles have been the norm for Simon Fraser. They have scored the fewest goals in the GNAC (7), but allowed the second-fewest (12).
• Connor Glennon (24 shots, four points) and Conrad Cheng (14 shots, two points) have the most offensive chances for SFU, but Brody Thomas is burying the ones he gets, with a team-high three goals on just eight shots.
• Simon Fraser has played nine consecutive matches away from home to start the year. At long last, they will get a chance to play at the brand-new SFU Stadium with home matches against MSUB on Thursday and No. 7 Seattle Pacific on Saturday.

WESTERN WASHINGTON
• Western Washington was victorious in their only match of the week, utilizing a 95th-minute winner from Drew Farnsworth to defeat Simon Fraser 1-0 on Saturday.
• It is Farnsworth’s fifth goal of the season, which ranks fourth in the GNAC. Farnsworth also ranks third in the conference in shots (26) and fourth in points (12).
• The Vikings have been primarily a two-headed monster on offense with Farnsworth and Gilbert De La Luz, who ranks fifth in the GNAC with four goals.
• Sophomore goalkeeper Brandon Locke became the third different keeper to start a match for Western Washington, making four saves and earning a shutout in the win against SFU. Locke started 13 matches in 2019 but had yet to play this year.
• Western Washington will host Montana State Billings on Thursday and in-state rival and No. 7 Seattle Pacific on Saturday.



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