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Topsy-Turvy Week Ensures Close Title Finish
MSUB's Brad Lowes celebrates one of the three Yellowjacket goals against Simon Frase on Senior Day in Billings.
MSUB's Brad Lowes celebrates one of the three Yellowjacket goals against Simon Frase on Senior Day in Billings.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Chaos reigned in the second-to-last week of the regular season. Of the five matches played last week, the teams that entered them lower in the standings went a combined 3-0-2.  

Simon Fraser, which entered the week tied with Western Washington at the top of the standings, had a 0-2 week that leaves their title hopes hanging by a thread. The SFU defense, a strength all season allowing under a goal per match, allowed seven goals this week in a 4-3 loss to No. 22 Seattle Pacific and a 3-0 loss to Montana State Billings.

Montana State Billings had a stellar week, taking four points off of title-contending teams with their Simon Fraser win and a Thursday 1-1 draw with Western Washington. Luca Battistotti, the Yellowjackets’ fifth-year captain and center back, won the GNAC Defensive Player of the Week award for his leadership role in shutting down two attacking units in must-win games. While the Yellowjackets are out of title contention, they just completed an unbeaten three-game run against the Falcons, Vikings and SFU.

Saint Martin’s also recorded an upset in their only match of the week, topping Northwest Nazarene 2-1. The 2-6 Saints have beaten the Nighthawks for both of their GNAC victories this season. Saints standout Jason Fairhurst bagged his first GNAC Offensive Player of the Week award of the season after scoring both goals in the win.

The conference’s only ranked team, No. 22 Seattle Pacific, reemerged at the top of the standings after knocking off Simon Fraser and playing Western Washington to a 1-1 draw. The Falcons and Vikings are tied at the top with 17 points. The Falcons have two games remaining to accumulate more points, however, while Western Washington and Simon Fraser play just once, against each other in Burnaby on Saturday night.

Seattle Pacific is the only GNAC team represented in the most recent NCAA Super Region 4 Rankings from Nov. 10. The Falcons sit at No. 9, up from No. 10 last week.

GNAC PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

OFFENSE
Jason Fairhurst, Saint Martin’s
F • 6-0 • Senior • Snohomish, Wash.
Fairhurst scored both goals in a 2-1 win over Northwest Nazarene in the Saints’ only match of the week. He opened the scoring in the 39th minute and tallied the game-winner in the 71st minute. Both of the Saints’ conference wins have come against the Nighthawks this season.

Also Nominated: Marvin Putu (MSUB), Bjorn Borren (SFU), Alex Mejia (SPU), Alex Whiting (WWU)

DEFENSE
Luca Battistotti, Montana State Billings
D • 5-10 • Senior • San Rocco Al Porto, Italy
Battistotti captained a back line for a fifth-place MSUB team that achieved results against two teams that entered the week tied for first in the conference. The Yellowjackets held Western Washington to four shots on goal in 110 minutes in a 1-1 draw then shut out Simon Fraser.

Also Nominated: Hunter Askland (SMU), Brandon Locke (WWU)

AROUND THE GNAC

MONTANA STATE BILLINGS
• Montana State Billings continued to playing spoiler, battling to a 1-1 draw with Western Washington on Thursday and beating Simon Fraser 3-0 on Saturday to complete a three-match unbeaten run against the GNAC’s top three teams. The win against SFU was only the second in program history.
• Marvin Putu used some ingenuity to tally his first goal of the year against WWU. He was the first to reach a punched clearance from Vikings goalkeeper Brandon Locke and lifted a shot from outside the box over Locke, who had vacated his net. Putu then added two assists against Simon Fraser. He leads the GNAC with seven assists and ranks seventh in Division II with 0.64 assists per match.
• Halil Yilmaz continued his torrid season with two goals against Simon Fraser. Yilmaz ranks second in the GNAC in goals (11), points (23) and shots (51), trailing only SPU’s Alex Mejia in all three categories.
• Luca Battistotti took home the GNAC Defensive Player of the Week award after leading the effort to shut down both opponents this week. Battistotti will become the program’s all-time leader in games played as long as he appears in both matches this week.
• Goalkeeper Connor Trapp made nine saves, including six against SFU.
• Montana State Billings closes the season on the road against Northwest Nazarene on Thursday and Saint Martin’s on Saturday.

NORTHWEST NAZARENE
• Northwest Nazarene lost their fourth straight match by a score of 2-1 to Saint Martin’s on Saturday.
• Midfielder Braeden Anderson scored his first goal of the year for the Nighthawks, cutting the deficit to one in the 80th minute. Anderson has two career goals in 36 games played.
• Sebastian Cotrau led the way with three of NNU’s shots at Hunter Askland’s net. Cotrau and Lukas Juodkunaitis share the team lead with four goals. Juodkunaitis is tied for fifth in the conference with 34 shots, while Cotrau is ninth with 29.
• Goalkeeper Sawyer Price has played every minute in net for the Nighthawks this season. Price ranks fourth in the conference in goals against average (1.62) and third in saves (54) and shutouts (three).
• The Nighthawks rank second in the GNAC in corner kick opportunities (71).
• The Nighthawks end the season with two matches at home. They will battle Montana State Billings on Thursday and No. 22 Seattle Pacific on Saturday.

SAINT MARTIN’S
• Saint Martin’s recorded a much-needed win against Northwest Nazarene in their only match of the week, defeating the Nighthawks for the second time this season by a score of 2-1 on Saturday.
• Jason Fairhurst scored both goals against NNU and was named GNAC Offensive Player of the Week. Fairhurst ranks third in the GNAC in goals (seven) and points (18) and is tied for third in assists (four).
• Arjan Gill, Ethan Jud and David Settle recorded assists against the Nighthawks. Settle is second on the team behind Fairhurst in assists (three) and points (five). Jud, Caden Martin and Diego Andrade have two goals apiece for Saint Martin’s.
• Goalkeeper Hunter Askland leads the conference with 59 saves and 4.21 saves per match.
• Saint Martin’s will face No. 22 Seattle Pacific on Thursday and Montana State Billings on Saturday. While the games are home matches for Saint Martin’s, both will be played elsewhere due to unplayable field conditions on the SMU campus. Thursday’s match will take place at the Regional Athletic Complex in Olympia, while Saturday’s will take place at Black Hills High School in Tumwater.

SEATTLE PACIFIC
• Seattle Pacific climbed back to the top of the conference standings with a 4-3 win over Simon Fraser and a 1-1 tie with Western Washington. The Falcons are tied for first with Western Washington with a match in hand.
• Thursday’s match was an uncharacteristic offensive explosion in a match-up between the conference’s two best defenses. After Simon Fraser scored first, SPU buried four goals between the 30th and 60th minutes of the match, with Travis Swallow (twice), Alex Mejia and Judah Johnston finding the net. Aidan Thrall had two assists for the Falcons.
• Against Western Washington, Mejia equalized in the 27th minute off of a free kick delivery from Titus Grant.
• Mejia leads the conference with 14 goals and 30 points. Alden Massey is tied for fourth with six goals and 15 points. Swallow ranks seventh with 12 points.
 • The Falcons fell four spots to No. 22 in the United Soccer Coaches Poll. They rank No. 9 in the NCAA West Region Rankings. The NCAA will select 10 teams from Super Region 4 for the postseason.
• Seattle Pacific needs four points from their final two matches to clinch the GNAC title outright.
• The Falcons close the year at Saint Martin’s on Thursday and at NNU on Saturday.

SIMON FRASER
• Simon Fraser had an 0-2 week at the worst time, falling from a tie for first in the GNAC to third with just one match to go. They lost 4-3 to No. 22 Seattle Pacific on Thursday and 3-0 to Montana State Billings.
• By margin of victory, the defeat at Billings was SFU’s worst conference loss since a similar 3-0 defeat to WWU in November 2013.
• Conrad Cheng got Simon Fraser off to a good start against Seattle Pacific, tallying his third goal of the year in the 15th minute, but by the time Brody Thomas scored his fourth of the season in the 68th minute, it was 4-2 in favor of the Falcons. Bjorn Borren assisted on Thomas’s goal, then scored one of his own in the 88th minute to cut the deficit to one.
• Simon Fraser ranks second in the GNAC in goals against average (1.27) and goals allowed (19). Goalkeeper Aidan Bain has a GNAC-high seven shutouts and had a 390-minute scoreless streak snapped by SPU’s first goal.  
• Simon Fraser has one match left at home against Western Washington on Saturday. Simon Fraser needs to beat the Vikings and have SPU lose twice to win the GNAC title.

WESTERN WASHINGTON
• Western Washington recorded a pair of 1-1 draws against Montana State Billings on Thursday and No. 22 Seattle Pacific on Saturday. The Vikings are tied for first with the Falcons, but have one less match left than SPU.
 • Alex Whiting had both goals for the Vikings this week, including an 83rd-minute equalizer that salvaged a potentially a season-saving point for the Vikings at Billings. He also opened the scoring in the 20th minute against SPU before the Falcons equalized seven minutes later.
• Brandon Locke made eight saves, including seven against the Falcons. He leads the conference with an 0.80 goals against average.
• Drew Farnsworth ranks tied for fourth in the GNAC with six goals, while Whiting and Gilbert De La Luz are among three players tied for sixth with five.
• Western Washington faces Simon Fraser north of the border on Saturday in the final match of the year. In order to figure into the title discussion, the Vikings must beat SFU, then hope Seattle Pacific fails to reach four points from two matches.

 

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