GNAC Play On Horizon For Last Women’s Soccer Tune-Ups
Northwest Nazarene is one of four undefeated teams in the GNAC heading into the final week before conference play begins on Thursday, Sept. 21.
Northwest Nazarene is one of four undefeated teams in the GNAC heading into the final week before conference play begins on Thursday, Sept. 21.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023
by Thomas Lal

PORTLAND, Ore. – The third week of the women’s soccer season promises to be less packed than the first two but no less exciting as GNAC programs work on the final details ahead of the conference schedule beginning in just over two weeks.

Coaches around the conference have carved out time in their teams’ schedules to rest ahead of the conference slate, with no program playing more than once this week. Central Washington and Saint Martin’s will both remain home for matches against Regis while Seattle Pacific and Western Washington hit the road for matches against No. 2 Colorado Mines. Northwest Nazarene will take on Westminster (Utah) on Saturday while Montana State Billings travels to South Dakota to face Black Hills State. Simon Fraser and Western Oregon both take a full week off ahead of the conference schedule beginning on Thursday, Sept. 21.

Western Oregon made waves last week, leaping up to No. 15 in the United Soccer Coaches poll after a long road trip that saw the Wolves beat Colorado Mines 2-1 in Colorado Springs, Colo. and draw 0-0 with No. 24 Cal Poly Humboldt in Arcata, Calif. The ranking is WOU’s best in the poll since this time last year and sees the Wolves leading four undefeated teams in the conference.

This Week's Storylines


DEFENDING THE TWINE: Saint Martin’s (2-0-1) and Simon Fraser (1-0-1) both rank in the top 20 teams of Division II in goals against average. The Saints rank 19th in the division with a .333 goals against average that includes a pair of shutouts. Saint Martin’s goalkeepers Flavia Burrell and Ali Campigotto have conceded just one goal heading into the third week of the season. Burrell is one of three goalkeepers in the conference who has stopped every shot they have faced and will look to maintain that statistic as the Saints host Regis (2-2-0) on Sunday. Simon Fraser sophomore goalkeeper Sarah Loewen will have to wait a bit longer to defend her perfect save percentage as the Red Leafs do not play again until conference competition begins on Thursday, Sept. 21.

COLORADO CALLS: Seattle Pacific (2-2-0) and Western Washington (2-1-0) will both hit the road for Golden, Colo. this week for matches against No. 2 Colorado Mines (3-0-1). The Vikings will be the first to face the Orediggers on Thursday as they come into the week on the heels of a 1-0 win over then-nationally ranked Cal State LA (1-1-1). Western Washington posted its second shutout of the season against the Golden Falcons last week and will need to remain strong on defense against a Colorado Mines offense that ranks fourth in Division II with 10.25 points per game and seventh with 3.5 goals per match. The Vikings will look toward defensive veterans like goalkeeper Claire Henninger and Jayden Nguyen to anchor the back line after both players were key elements in last week’s shutout victory.

Seattle Pacific will face the offensive juggernaut that is Colorado Mines on Saturday looking to get back in the win column after a tough 1-0 loss at Chico State last Saturday where the Falcons outshot the Wildcats 21-9. The Falcons will hope that freshman goalkeeper Landry Schoennauer can build on the first shutout of her collegiate career after last week’s 1-0 win over San Francisco State on the road. In the attacking third, the Falcons are led by senior forward Jacqueline Blakeley with four points courtesy of two goals. Blakeley is tied for third in the conference with an average of 2.50 shots per game and is tied for second in the GNAC in points.

FLOAT LIKE A BUTTERFLY, STING LIKE A YELLOWJACKET: Montana State Billings (0-1-1) will look to notch its first win of the young season this week as it makes the trip to Spearfish, S.D. to face Black Hills State (2-2-0) on Thursday. The Yellowjackets contested their first matches of the regular season last week, narrowly falling 1-0 to Minot State (3-0-0) before drawing 2-2 with Carroll College (3-0-1). The MSUB offense has flowed through freshman midfielder Kaari Little and junior defender Sunny Bennion thus far, with both players picking three points via a goal and an assist against Carroll College. Little also leads the GNAC and is one of three players tied for the Division II lead with a perfect 100% shot accuracy after putting all shot of her shots on frame.

ROAD HAWKS: After a 0-0 draw against then No. 12 Hawaii Hilo (1-0-1) last Tuesday and an exhibition match on Saturday, Northwest Nazarene (1-0-2) returns to regular season play on Saturday at Westminster (Utah) (2-1-1). The Nighthawks will aim to keep themselves as one of the four undefeated teams in the conference. Junior goalkeeper Bailey Blancett has been a key part of that early success and is one of four goalkeepers in the GNAC with a perfect 1.000 save percentage. Blancett also leads the conference and is tied for the lead in Division II with three shutouts. Offensively, senior forward Madison Grande continues to lead the team with two points on one goal. While Grande didn’t find the back of the net in regular season play last week, she reminded opponents that they have to keep an eye on her with an immediate impact in NNU’s exhibition match.

WILDCATS HOMECOMING: After securing its first win of the season last Saturday at San Francisco State (0-4-0), Central Washington (1-3-0) returns to Ellensburg for its regular season home opener on Friday. The Wildcats will host Regis (2-2-0) and aim to build off their success in the Golden State. Sophomore midfielder Paige Savage has been the top offensive performer for CWU this season. Savage leads the team and is tied for second in the conference with two goals and four points, including the game-winner in last week’s 2-0 decision over San Francisco State.

Player to Watch


Kaari Little - Montana State Billings

Little put herself in the early conversation for freshman of the year after notching a goal and an assist in just the second game of her collegiate career last week. The midfielder from Bellingham, Wash. picked up her first points of the season last Saturday in the Yellowjackets’ 2-2 draw with Carroll College.  Little delivered a perfectly weighted corner kick in the 10th minute of the match to find the head of teammate Sunny Benion and give MSUB the early lead.

Little came through once again in the 72nd minute to score the Yellowjackets’ second goal of the match. After a corner kick that was cleared outside of the Fighting Saints’ box, Little took a short pass from Benion and turned what initially looked like a dangerous cross into a beautiful arcing goal that slotted into the side netting. Little has started both matches of MSUB’s young season and will look to build on that momentum as the Yellowjackets face Black Hills State on Thursday in Spearfish S.D.


National Rankings
United Soccer Coaches Division II Rankings

The second United Soccer Coaches Division II rankings of the season came out on Sept. 12 with undefeated Western Oregon (3-0-1) making a huge leap up the poll to No. 15 after defeating Colorado Mines 2-1 on the road last Thursday and drawing 0-0 at No. 24 Cal Poly Humboldt last Saturday. The No. 15 ranking marks the first time this season that the Wolves have cracked the top 25 and the first time they have been ranked this highly since Sept. 13, 2022, when they came in at No. 19 in in the poll. Western Washington (2-1-0) slipped out of the top 25 in the rankings for the first time in almost a year despite winning 1-0 over then-nationally ranked Cal State LA (1-1-1).

Poll Team 1 Team 2 Team 3
Preseason 1. WWU RV NNU RV SPU
Sept. 5 1. WWU    
Sept. 12 15. WOU RV WWU  
GNAC Women's Soccer In The NCAA Statistical National Rankings

Through games on Sept. 10.

Team Rankings (Top-30)

Assists Per Game: 12. SMU, 2.33
Corner Kicks Per Game: 12. SMU, 8.00
Goals Against Average: 1. SFU, 0.000; 19. SMU, .333
Penalty Kicks: 1. WOU, 1.000; 1. WWU, 1.000
Save Percentage: 1. SFU, 1.000
Shutout Percentage: 1. SFU, 1.000; 8. NNU, .750; 26. SMU, .667; 26. WWU, .667
Assists: 27. SMU, 7
Won-Lost-Tied Percentage: 23. WOU, .875

Individual Rankings (Top-30)

Game Winning Goals: 2. Chloe Smith, WOU, 2; 26. 10 Players Tied, 1
Goalie Minutes Played: 4. Landry Schoennauer, SPU, 360:00
Goals Against Average: 1. Bailey Blancett, NNU, 0.000; 1. Flavia Burrell, SMU, 0.000; 1. Sarah Loewen, SFU, 0.000, 25. Sophia Pierce, WOU, .286
Goals Per Game: 13. Chloe Smith, WOU, 1.00
Penalty Kicks: 1. Gracen Crosby, WWU, 1.000; 1. Chloe Smith, WOU, 1.000
Save Percentage: 1. Bailey Blancett, NNU, 1.000; 1. Flavia Burrell, SMU, 1.000; 1. Sarah Loewen, SFU, 1.000; 23, Kassandra Jaggard, CWU, .929; 30. Sophia Pierce, WOU, .917
Saves Per Game: 22. Kassandra Jaggard, CWU, 6.50
Shot Accuracy: 1. Kaari Little, MSUB, 1.000; 30. Mikayla Tupper, SFU, .750
Shots Per Game: 24. Jackie Sharpe, MSUB, 4.50
Shots On Goal Per Game: 20. Kaari Little, MSUB, 2.50; 20. Jackie Sharpe, MSUB, 2.50
Shutouts: 1. Bailey Blancett, NNU, 3; 12. Sarah Loewen, SFU, 2; 12. Sophia Pierce, WOU, 2
Assists: 25. Sophie Beadle, SPU, 2; 25. Alia Khoyi, SMU, 2
Goals: 9. Chloe Smith, WOU, 4
Points: 24. Chloe Smith, WOU, 8

2023 GNAC Women's Soccer Players of the Week
Date Offensive Player of the Week Defensive Player of the Week
Sept. 5 Chloe Smith, Western Oregon Sarah Loewen, Simon Fraser
Sept. 11 Chloe Smith, Western Oregon Sophia Pierce, Western Oregon

Sept. 11 GNAC Women's Soccer Players of the Week

Offensive: Chloe Smith, Western Oregon

Smith made it two weeks in a row with a brace, this time doing so in dramatic fashion with a last-minute, game-winning goal against UC Colorado Springs. Smith got the Wolves off to a hot start with a goal in the fifth minute, before delivering her second game-winning finish of the 2023 campaign. Smith leads the conference in every offensive statistical category including goals with four.

Also Nominated: Paige Savage, CWU; Kaari Little, MSUB; Moira MacKay, SPU; Mie Cairns, WWU.

Defensive: Sophia Pierce, Western Oregon

It took a penalty kick save by Pierce to make Smith’s goal a game-winner, as the junior from Missoula, Mont., sprung into action shortly after Smith’s first finish against the Mountain Lions. Pierce’s stop in the 10th minute kept the lead in her team’s hands and she finished with three saves in the victory. Pierce followed with her second shutout of the year, making two more saves in the Wolves’ scoreless draw at Cal Poly Humboldt. Pierce holds a goals against average of 0.29 having allowed just one finish in four matches this season.

Also Nominated: Sunny Bennion, MSUB; Bailey Blancett, NNU; Landry Schoennauer, SPU, Jayden Nguyen, WWU.

2023 GNAC Women's Soccer Championships

The 2023 GNAC Women's Soccer Championships will be held Nov. 9-11 at Tomlinson Stadium on the campus of Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Wash. The top four teams in the final GNAC regular-season standings will advance to the single-elimination tournament.

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