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Unanimous POTY Mejia Leads All-Conference Selections
Seattle Pacific forward Alex Mejia scored 14 goals and ranked in the top 10 of Division II in goals and shots per match.
Seattle Pacific forward Alex Mejia scored 14 goals and ranked in the top 10 of Division II in goals and shots per match.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

PORTLAND, Ore. – After leading the conference with 14 goals and ranking in the top 10 nationally in several offensive statistics, Seattle Pacific forward Alex Mejia was the unanimous selection for GNAC Player of the Year and leads the 2021 GNAC Men’s Soccer All-Conference team.

Mejia, a senior from Roosevelt High School in Seattle, Washington, took the league by storm offensively. He scored 12 times in SPU’s first 11 matches, including a hat trick on Oct. 9 against Saint Martin’s. At the end of the regular season, Mejia ranked 12th in Division II in goals per match (0.82), seventh in shots per match (4.12), second in shots on goal per match (2.47) and tied for ninth with his 14 total goals.

As conference champions, Seattle Pacific took home the majority of the year-end awards. Goalkeeper Lars Helleren won the Defensive Player of the Year Award after leading full-time GNAC goalkeepers with a 1.01 goals against average and ranking second in saves (61) and shutouts (six). Falcons interim head coach Kevin Sakuda was honored as the GNAC’s Coach of the Year less than four months after moving over from his assistant coach role with the SPU women’s team to replace the outgoing Mark Collings, who is now an assistant coach with the University of Washington men’s program.

Northwest Nazarene’s Lukas Juodkinaitis was named the Freshman of the Year. A forward from Lithuania, Juodkinaitis ranked tied for sixth in the GNAC with five goals, and he led the Nighthawks and ranked tied for eighth in the GNAC with 11 points.

The Newcomer of the Year award was given to Simon Fraser midfielder Conrad Cheng. Cheng joined SFU with junior eligibility after previously playing with the University of New Hampshire and with Skeid in Norway’s Second Division. He scored three goals and led his team with 22 shots.

Seattle Pacific led the way with four selections to the 11-player All-GNAC First Team. Second-place Simon Fraser had three selections, Montana State Billings placed two players on the team and Western Washington and Northwest Nazarene had one selection each.

The league’s top two goalscorers in Mejia and MSUB’s Halil Yilmaz each made the first team as forwards. Yilmaz ranked second in the conference behind Mejia in most offensive stats, including goals (11), points (23) and shots (51). Yilmaz scored hat tricks in both the first overall match and first conference match this season, tallying three against Texas A&M International on Sept. 2 and then scoring another three in the GNAC opener against Seattle Pacific on Oct. 2.

Seattle Pacific’s Alden Massey was the final first-team forward selected. Massey tallied six goals on the year and ranked third in the GNAC in goals per match (0.50) and points per match (1.25).

Simon Fraser had two players in the first-team midfield in Cheng and sophomore Mark Talisuna, who returned from injury for the second half of the season. Simon Fraser allowed just 20 goals all season, including 10 in conference play.

Western Washington captain Drew Farnsworth was the Vikings’ representative on the first team. The senior from New Zealand scored seven goals, including an overtime game-winner against Simon Fraser on Oct. 9. He also added three assists, finishing fourth in the GNAC with 17 points. Farnsworth tied for third in the conference with 49 shots.

Sophomore Marvin Putu from Montana State Billings rounds out the midfield. Putu led the conference with seven assists, including two against Seattle Pacific on Oct. 2 and Simon Fraser on Nov. 6.

Northwest Nazarene’s Lorenzo Valentini, the only returning first-team selection from 2019, led the first-team defensive unit. Valentini, a graduate student, wore the captain’s armband for the Nighthawks and started all 16 matches, only leaving the pitch for seven minutes of game time all season.

Simon Fraser defender Simone Masi is the only freshman to earn selection to the first team. Masi failed to play 90 minutes just once and anchored an SFU back line that led the GNAC in shutouts.

Seattle Pacific earned their final two first-team selections with defender Nik Reierson and Helleren in goal. Reierson won the GNAC Defensive Player of the Week award twice as SPU led the conference in team goals against average (1.01) and goals allowed (18). Reierson also packed an offensive punch, notching two goals and four assists.

The all-conference announcement signified a new generation in men’s soccer for the GNAC, as only Valentini (first-team in 2019), Talisuna (second-team in 2019) and Farnsworth and Reierson (two honorable mention selections each) have previous all-conference recognition. Seven countries were represented in the 11 first-team selections.

The season is not over yet for Mejia, Helleren and the rest of the Seattle Pacific squad, as the Falcons were announced as a No. 9 seed in the NCAA tournament. They will play No. 8 CSU Pueblo on Thursday in Los Angeles before facing 2019 national runners-up and No. 1 seed Cal State LA should they win that match.

2021 GNAC MEN'S SOCCER ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM
Player of the Year: Alex Mejia, Seattle Pacific
Defensive Player of the Year: Lars Helleren, Seattle Pacific
Coach of the Year: Kevin Sakuda, Seattle Pacific
Freshman of the Year: Lukas Juodkunaitis, Northwest Nazarene
Newcomer of the Year: Conrad Cheng, Simon Fraser

FIRST TEAM          
Name School Pos. Ht. Yr. Hometown (Previous School)
* Alex Mejia Seattle Pacific F 6-2 Sr. Seattle, Wash. (Roosevelt)
* Halil Yilmaz Montana State Billings F 6-0 Jr. Wiesbaden, Germany
(Schulze Delitzsch Schule)
Alden Massey Seattle Pacific F 6-1 Sr. Duvall, Wash. (Cedarcrest)
* Conrad Cheng Simon Fraser M 5-9 Jr. Oslo Norway (Wang Toppidrett)
*# Mark Talisuna Simon Fraser M 6-1 So. Kampala, Uganda
(Brookhouse International)
*@& Drew Farnsworth Western Washington M 5-9 Sr. Aucklund, New Zealand (Westlake Boys)
*+ Lorenzo Valentini Northwest Nazarene D 6-7 Sr. Saarbrücken, Germany
(Gymnasium am Rotenbühl)
* Simone Masi Simon Fraser D 6-2 Fr. Burnaby, B.C, (University Hill)
*@& Nik Reierson Seattle Pacific D 5-11 Sr. Duvall, Wash. (Cedarcrest)
* Lars Helleren Seattle Pacific GK 6-2 Sr. Edmonds, Wash. (King’s)
* Marvin Putu Montana State Billings M 5-11 So. Nanterre, France (Auguste Perdonnet)
           
SECOND TEAM          
Name School Pos. Ht. Yr. Hometown (Previous School)
Lukas Juodkunaitis Northwest Nazarene F 6-1 Fr. Vilnius, Lithuania
(Vilniaus Senvages Gimnazija)
@ Jason Fairhurst Saint Martin’s F 6-0 Sr. Snohomish, Wash. (Snohomish)
Alex Whiting Western Washington F 6-0 Sr. University Place, Wash. (Tacoma CC)
#& Gus Diehl Western Washington M 5-10 Jr. Bellingham, Wash. (Sehome)
@ Travis Swallow Seattle Pacific M 5-8 Sr. Coeur d’Alene, Idaho (Lake City)
Jay Mendoza Saint Martin’s M 5-11 Jr. Prosser, Wash. (Columbia Basin CC)
#&^ Luca Battistotti Montana State Billings D 5-10 Sr. San Rocco al Porto, Italy
(Liceo Scientifico Melchiorre Giola)
Mathias Kjølner Montana State Billings D 5-10 Fr. Tønsberg, Norway (Presterød)
@ Teagan Eldridge Western Washington D 5-11 Jr. Enumclaw, Wash. (Enumclaw)
# Brandon Locke Western Washington GK 6-3 So. Federal Way, Wash. (Todd Beamer)
Jose Benavides Seattle Pacific M 6-1 Sr. Mexico City, Mexico (Tualatin)
Ali Zohar Simon Fraser M 5-8 So. Surrey, B.C. (University Hill)
           
HONORABLE MENTION         
Name School Pos. Ht. Yr. Hometown (Previous School)
Jeremie Briquet Montana State Billings M 6-2 Jr. Cannes, France (Dodge City CC)
Paul Cuevas Montana State Billings M 5-11 Sr. Yakima, Wash. (Skagit Valley CC)
Brad Lowes Montana State Billings M 5-11 Sr. Hexham, England (Angelina Coll.)
Bryan Maxwell Montana State Billings D 6-0 Jr. Spokane, Wash. (Lewis & Clark)
Brandon Parsio Northwest Nazarene D 6-1 Jr. Lake Forest, Calif. (El Toro)
@ Sawyer Price Northwest Nazarene GK 6-3 So. Olympia, Wash. (Olympia)
@& Jose Marquez Saint Martin’s D 6-0 Sr. Sunnyside, Wash. (Sunnyside)
Stephen Murray Saint Martin’s D 6-0 Sr. Bonney Lake, Wash. (Sumner)
Titus Grant Seattle Pacific F 5-10 Sr. Colorado Springs, Colo. (Classical Academy)
Aidan Thrall Seattle Pacific D 5-9 So. Woodland, Wash. (Woodland)
Aidan Bain Simon Fraser GK 6-3 Sr. Port Coquitlam, B.C. (Terry Fox)
Bjorn Borren Simon Fraser D 5-8 Jr. Penticton, B.C. (Penticton)
Tyler Dhillon Simon Fraser D 6-0 Jr. Surrey, B.C. (Semiahmoo)
Gilbert De La Luz Western Washington F 5-11 Jr. Tacoma, Wash. (Franklin Pierce)
           
* - Unanimous Selection
+ - First Team Selection in 2019
# - Second Team Selection In 2019
@ - Honorable Mention in 2019  
& - Honorable Mention in 2018
^ - Honorable Mention in 2017    
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