Nighthawks Soar High In Unprecedented Spring Season
Northwest Nazarene's Lukas Juodkunaitis was named the GNAC Offensive Player of the Week on Mar. 8 after he scored the game-winner and had an assist in a 2-0 win over Saint Martin's on Mar. 6.
Northwest Nazarene's Lukas Juodkunaitis was named the GNAC Offensive Player of the Week on Mar. 8 after he scored the game-winner and had an assist in a 2-0 win over Saint Martin's on Mar. 6.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

NIGHTHAWKS RISE TO THE OCCASION: Northwest Nazarene took full advantage of the 2020-21 season after it was modified due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Nighthawks opened the season by splitting a pair of exhibition matches at Division I Grand Canyon on Jan. 28 and 30, winning the second meeting, 2-1, off a game-winning goal in the 88th minute by freshman midfielder Nils Knosala.

Northwest Nazarene has since gone 3-1-1 this spring. The Nighthawks’ one loss was a 1-0 heartbreaker at Division I Gonzaga on Feb. 23 as the Bulldogs’ Sebastian Karlhom broke a scoreless match with a game-winner in the 89th minute.

The first two official wins of the season for NNU came against NAIA opponents in College of Idaho on Feb. 20 and Eastern Oregon on Feb. 26. The Coyotes had the Nighthawks on the ropes, leading 4-1 after 47 minutes. The Nighthawks stormed back to score three goals in 22 minutes to send the match to overtime, where senior forward Jake Levine notched the golden goal in the 98th minute off an assist from freshman midfielder Lukas Juodkunaitis to give NNU the 5-4 win. Juodkunaitis finished the match with two assists and two shots on goal while Levine also scored a goal in the 61st minute to put NNU within one goal of the Yotes.

Juodkunaitis left his mark again in a 4-2 win over Eastern Oregon, scoring the opening goal in the 10th minute and assisting on a goal by sophomore midfielder Cameron Natvig in the 69th. Levine scored NNU’s second goal and dished out the assist on the third goal by junior defender Lorenzo Valentini. For their performances, Levine and Valentini were named the GNAC Offensive and Defensive Players of the Week, respectively.

Northwest Nazarene finally got to face a GNAC opponent in March, tying with Saint Martin’s on Mar. 4, 1-1, before beating the Saints on Mar. 6, 2-0. Senior forward Skyler Munroe scored the lone goal for the Nighthawks in the tie. Juodkunaitis stole the show again in the win, scoring the opening goal and assisting on the second goal by Valentini to earn GNAC Offensive Player of the Week honors.

Sophomore goalkeeper Sawyer Price has a 3-1-1 record on the season with 15 saves and a 1.04 goals against average. Price was named the GNAC Defensive Player of the Week on Mar. 8 after he earned the shutout in the 2-0 victory over the Saints.

The Nighthawks will conclude their season with home matches against Saint Martin’s on April 8 and 10.

YELLOWJACKETS BUZZ BY BEARS: Montana State Billings is 1-0-1 on the season after a pair of matches at crosstown rival Rocky Mountain. The Yellowjackets won the first match on Feb. 24, 3-2, before completing a 0-0 tie with the Bears on Feb. 27.

Montana State Billings outshot the Bears 11-9 with seven shots on goal in the 3-2 victory. Junior defender Bryan Maxwell notched the game-winning goal for the Yellowjackets in the 80th minute. Junior forwards Edgar Ramirez and Austin Shafer scored the first two goals for MSUB.

The Yellowjackets and Bears both tallied 10 shots in the tie. Sophomore Aleksandar Garza made two saves in the first half while freshman Lars Funk played the remaining 65 minutes, making three saves.

After a series of scrimmages, the Yellowjackets will close their season with two matches against Carroll (Mont.). The first match will be played on April 11 in Helena while the season finale will be played on April 18 in Billings.

SAINTS LOOK FORWARD TO SEASON AHEAD: Saint Martin’s tied with Northwest Nazarene, 1-1, in Lacey on Mar. 4 before dropping the second match at home on Mar. 6, 2-0.

Sophomore midfielder Jason Aragon scored the unassisted opening goal against the Nighthawks in the 48th minute of the first match. The Saints finished the match with 15 shots, five on goal. Sophomore goalkeeper Hunter Askland made three saves in the tie.

Saint Martin’s tallied seven shots and three shots on goal in the 2-0 loss to the Nighthawks but could not find the back of the net. Askland made two saves and allowed the first goal while fellow sophomore goalkeeper Bryce Porter played the last 44 minutes, allowing the second goal and making three saves.

Saint Martin’s still has eight matches ahead of it this spring. The Saints will be back on the pitch on Mar. 24 as they head just up the road to play at Seattle Pacific.

MORE TO COME: Two other GNAC men’s soccer programs will start their modified 2020-21 seasons this month. Seattle Pacific will open its season at home, hosting Saint Martin’s on Mar. 24 and Division III Pacific Lutheran on Mar. 27. Western Washington also opens its season at home on Mar. 27 as the Vikings will host Division III Puget Sound.

Due to the continued closure of the U.S./Canada border due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Simon Fraser will not compete in soccer this season.