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Gap Tightens At The Top As Second Half Kicks Off
Aidan Bain took home GNAC Defensive Player of the Week after leading Simon Fraser to two shutout wins, including over No. 7 SPU.
Aidan Bain took home GNAC Defensive Player of the Week after leading Simon Fraser to two shutout wins, including over No. 7 SPU.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Four teams are within a game of first place as the GNAC men’s soccer season gets set to resume after a conference-wide bye week last week.

With each team having played half of the 10 GNAC games on their schedule, the conference’s six teams received a break after a week that knocked the last unbeaten team off its perch and clumped several teams together in the standings.

Simon Fraser were the week’s big winners, with twin 1-0 victories over MSUB and then-No. 7 Seattle Pacific. The SFU defense had a tall task on paper containing MSUB’s Halil Yilmaz and SPU’s Alex Mejia, who had combined for 21 goals in 21 matches up to that point.

GNAC Defensive Player of the Week Aidan Bain made nine saves against MSUB before the Simon Fraser team put on a defensive clinic, limiting a Seattle Pacific attack that leads the conference in goals, assists and shots to just two attempts on target. Ali Zohar won Offensive Player of the Week honors for an exquisite headed flick that was the game-winner in the upset of SPU. The loss to Simon Fraser was the Falcons’ first of the GNAC season and second overall.

Earlier in the day, Saint Martin’s picked up their first win of the GNAC season. If SFU’s triumph was a defensive clinic, the Saints’ matchup with the Nighthawks was anything but.  

The two teams evenly split eight goals in the first 90 minutes before Jason Fairhurst put through the game-winner with four minutes left in double overtime for a 5-4 SMU victory. Fairhurst also had two assists in the shootout, which incredibly featured nine different goal scorers.
The loss dropped Northwest Nazarene to 3-2 in the GNAC. Entering the match against the Saints in sole possession of second place, the Nighthawks now share second with both Simon Fraser and Western Washington. Seattle Pacific holds a one-game lead over the chase pack at 4-1 and is now ranked No. 14 in the United Soccer Coaches National Poll.

The conference’s 3-2 teams will get multiple head-to-head opportunities against one another in this week’s action. Northwest Nazarene will travel to Simon Fraser on Thursday and then take on Western Washington on Saturday.

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

OFFENSE
Ali Zohar, Simon Fraser
F • 5-8 • Sophomore • Surrey, B.C.
Zohar made his first goal of the season count, scoring the game-winner in the 21st minute in a 1-0 Simon Fraser win over No. 7 Seattle Pacific. He headed a Nico Papakyriakopoulos free kick into the top left corner to hand the Falcons their first GNAC loss. Zohar played all 180 minutes in midfield as Simon Fraser played to a 2-0 week.

Also Nominated: Valdemar Fogt (MSUB), Jason Fairhurst (SMU), Alex Whiting (WWU)

DEFENSE
Aidan Bain, Simon Fraser
GK • 6-3 • Senior • Port Coquitlam, B.C.
Bain posted his fourth and fifth shutouts of the week in a 2-0 homestand for Simon Fraser. He made nine saves in Thursday’s 1-0 victory over Montana State Billings and then had two stops in a 1-0 win over No. 7 Seattle Pacific on Saturday. His nine saves against MSUB were the second-most by a GNAC player this season.

Also Nominated: Brandon Locke (WWU)

AROUND THE GNAC

MONTANA STATE BILLINGS
• Montana State Billings endured two road losses, falling 1-0 to Simon Fraser on Oct. 14 and 3-1 to Western Washington on Oct. 16.
• Halil Yimaz had four of MSUB’s nine shots on goal against Simon Fraser. Yilmaz ranks second in the GNAC in goals (nine), points (19) and shots (42).
• Sophomore midfielder Valdemar Fogt scored his first goal of the season against Western Washington by curling in a corner kick directly into the net at the far post. Fogt is the sixth MSUB player to score this year. The six different goalscorers for the Yellowjackets is the fewest in the GNAC.
• Alongside Yilmaz, senior midfielder Paul Cuevas (three) and junior forward Austin Shafer (two) lead the ‘Jackets offensively. Midfielders Marvin Putu and Jeremie Briquet have combined for eight of MSUB’s 13 assists. They rank tied for second in the GNAC with four assists each.
• Montana State Billings has only played two home matches this season, but they will be at home for their next three, starting with No. 14 Seattle Pacific on Saturday in the team’s only match of the week.

NORTHWEST NAZARENE
• Northwest Nazarene lost their only match of the week in a 5-4 shootout at home to Saint Martin’s on Oct. 16.
• A week after scoring two goals in the final five minutes to steal a match against MSUB, the Nighthawks struck late again. With NNU down 4-3, Lukas Juodkunaitis scored with 18 seconds left in regulation to extend the game.
• Freshman forward Sullivan Smith and sophomore forward Sebastian Cotrau scored in the first half for NNU. Freshman midfielder Jimmy Koufidakis scored after the break to momentarily give the Nighthawks a 3-2 lead before Juodkunaitis’s game-tying goal.  
• Cotrau and Juodkinaitis lead the team and are tied for sixth in the GNAC with four goals. Nils Knosala has three while Smith and Koufidakis have two for the Nigthhawks.
• Koufidakis leads the team and is among four players tied for second in the GNAC with four assists, adding one to his total against SMU. Junior midfielder Brandon Parsio had two assists against the Saints to bring his season total to three.
• Northwest Nazarene is second in the conference in goals (20) and assists (15), and ranks third in the GNAC in goals against average (1.70).  
• The Nighthawks are tied for second in the GNAC standings at 3-2 with two other teams, and NNU will face both of them this week. They will travel to Simon Fraser on Thursday and Western Washington on Saturday.

SAINT MARTIN’S
• Saint Martin’s dropped a non-conference match against Warner Pacific 4-1 on Oct. 12 before snapping an eight-game losing streak with a thrilling 5-4 road win over Northwest Nazarene on Oct. 16.
• The match with NNU was frenetic, with the Saints and Nighthawks landing punch after counter-punch. Each team held the lead two separate times in regulation before Jason Fairhurst scored the game-winning goal with 4:04 left in double overtime. He also recorded two assists earlier in the match.
• Fairhurst is tied for sixth in the GNAC with four goals, tied for second with four assists and tied for fourth with 12 points. He leads the Saints in all the above categories.
• Cole Mattson and Caden Martin found the net in the first half while Brian Licona and Diego Andrade tallied goals in the second half. It was the second goals of the season for Martin and Andrade and the first for Mattson and Licona.
• Martin notched his first goal in the loss to Warner Pacific. Sophomore goalkeeper Bryce Porter made his first start of the season, making six saves while conceding four goals. Hunter Askland returned to the net on Saturday, making five saves against the Nighthawks.
• Saint Martin’s has two road matches this week, facing Western Washington on Thursday and Simon Fraser on Saturday.

SEATTLE PACIFIC
• Seattle Pacific defeated rivals Western Washington 2-0 on Oct. 14 before being stymied by the Simon Fraser defense in a 1-0 loss on Oct. 16.
• Once again, Alex Mejia scored in an SPU victory. The senior forward tallied his 12th goal of the season with just 40 seconds left in the match against the Vikings to ice the 2-0 win.
• Prior to Mejia’s now-trademark moment of brilliance, Judah Johnston’s 61st-minute goal was the difference for SPU. The sophomore forward has three goals for the Falcons, all of which came in a four-match span.
• Mejia is putting together one of the best offensive seasons in the country. His goal-per-match pace ranks tied for fifth in Division II. Mejia has also put opposing nets under assault this season, ranking fifth in Division II with 4.33 shots per match and second nationally with 2.75 shots on goal per match.
• Seattle Pacific leads the GNAC in almost every major statistic: shots (173), goals (30), assists (25), points (85) and goals against average (0.96). They rank 20th in Division II in both goals per match (2.5) and assists per match (2.08).
• The Falcons fell to No. 17 in the United Soccer Coaches National Poll after the loss to Simon Fraser, but rose to No. 14 in the Oct. 26 poll despite being idle that week. They sit at No. 2 in the West Region Poll.
• Seattle Pacific plays just once, facing Montana State Billings on Thursday.

SIMON FRASER
• Simon Fraser climbed into a tie for second in the GNAC standings with two 1-0 victories against MSUB on Oct. 14 and then-No. 7 Seattle Pacific on Oct. 16.
• Aidan Bain was named the GNAC Defensive Player of the Week after recording his fourth and fifth shutouts of the season. Bain made nine saves against MSUB, tied for the second-most by a GNAC player in a game this season, and made two against SPU as a team effort held the Falcons to just seven shots on goal. Bain ranks third in the GNAC with 45 saves and second with a 1.07 goals against average.
• Justus Meier scored his first collegiate goal in the fourth minute against MSUB, which held up as the game-winner. Against Seattle Pacific, Ali Zohar headed in a cross from Nico Papakyriakopoulos in the 21st minute. Zohar was named the GNAC Offensive Player of the Week for his highlight-reel goal that sealed the upset win.
• Simon Fraser is undefeated in the brand-new SFU Stadium, and they get two more matches there this week – against Northwest Nazarene on Thursday and Saint Martin’s on Saturday.

WESTERN WASHINGTON
• Western Washington fell 2-0 to then-No. 7 Seattle Pacific on Oct. 14 before defeating MSUB 3-1 on Oct. 16.
• Sophomore goalkeeper Brandon Locke made eight saves against SPU, a season-high for any of WWU’s three goalies.
 • Johan Espinoza, Alex Whiting and Gilbert De La Luz scored against the Yellowjackets. Espinoza, Whiting and defender Gus Diehl are tied for third on the team with two goals apiece, while De La Luz and midfielder Drew Farnsworth are tied for fourth in the GNAC with five goals.
• The Vikings rank third in the GNAC in goals (19) and assists (13) while ranking second in saves (48) and shots (143).
• Western Washington is in a three-way tie for second in the GNAC at 3-2. They host Saint Martin’s on Thursday before facing Northwest Nazarene, one of the other 3-2 teams, on Saturday in Bellingham.

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