Falcons Take Flight In Women’s Soccer Preseason Poll
Seattle Pacific ranked second in the GNAC in 2019 with 1.80 goals, 1.55 assists and 5.15 points per game and finished with seven shutouts and a 0.98 goals against average.
Seattle Pacific ranked second in the GNAC in 2019 with 1.80 goals, 1.55 assists and 5.15 points per game and finished with seven shutouts and a 0.98 goals against average.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

PORTLAND, Ore. – It has been two years since the beginning of the last full season of soccer in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. A lot has changed in that time, but what hasn’t changed much is the Seattle Pacific roster.

Seattle Pacific enters 2021 atop the GNAC Women’s Soccer Preseason Coaches Poll with 62 points and six first-place votes. The Falcons also enter the season ranked No. 5 in the United Soccer Coaches NCAA Division II Preseason Poll.

Western Washington, the defending GNAC champion, is picked second in the preseason poll with 57 points and received the remaining two first-place votes. The Vikings are followed by Northwest Nazarene with 44 points.

Looking to return to the GNAC Championships are Central Washington and Western Oregon. The Wildcats received 37 points while the Wolves weren’t far back with 30 points. Rounding out the poll are Simon Fraser and Montana State Billings with 22 points apiece and Saint Martin’s with 14 points.

Seattle Pacific finished the 2019 season in second place with a 9-3-0 conference mark (12-8-0 overall). The Falcons’ season ended in a 2-1 loss to Western Washington in the GNAC Championships title match.

The Falcons had a strong COVID-shifted season in 2020-21, finishing 8-0-1 with six wins over GNAC opponents. They scored at least four goals in all nine of their matches. The high-scoring SPU offense led all conference teams with 39 goals, 35 assists, 113 points and 209 shots.

In head coach Arby Busey’s seventh season, SPU returns 23 letterwinners and its entire starting lineup from 2020-21. A two-time First Team All-GNAC selection, senior forward Sophia Chilczuk started all 20 matches in 2019, finishing the season with totals of eight goals, three assists and 19 points. Chilczuk went off in 2020-21, leading all GNAC players with 10 goals, 28 points and 4.75 shots per game while finishing tied for first with eight assists. She scored a goal in seven of her eight matches, which included two-goal performances in the first three matches of the spring.

Also returning for SPU are senior midfielder Claire Neder and junior midfielder Chloe Gellhaus. Neder earned Honorable Mention All-GNAC honors in 2019 after she scored six goals and dished out three assists. She finished 2020-21 ranked tied for first with Chilczuk with 38 shots and was second with eight goals and 21 points. The 2019 GNAC Freshman of the Year, Gellhaus scored eight goals and had an assist in her first season with the Falcons. She followed with six goals, three assists and 15 points in 2020-21.

Western Washington went 23-3-0 with a perfect 12-0-0 conference record under head coach Travis Connell in 2019. The Vikings claimed their seventh regular-season title in eight years and won the GNAC Championships. The Vikings’ historic season went all the way to the NCAA Division II title match, where they fell in an exciting 1-0 double-overtime loss to Grand Valley State.

The Vikings went 4-1-2 in 2020-21 with all four wins coming against conference foes. They enter their 2021 campaign ranked tied for No. 25 in the United Soccer Coaches Preseason Poll and return 27 letterwinners and 10 starters.

Anchoring WWU on the defensive end is senior goalkeeper Natalie Dierickx. Dierickx, the 2018 GNAC Newcomer of the Year and a two-time First Team All-GNAC selection, was named a First Team All-American by the United Soccer Coaches in 2019 after leading the conference with 13 shutouts, a .852 save percentage and a 0.37 goals against average. She went 3-0-0 in 2020-21 with 10 saves and a 0.67 goals against average.

Western Washington returns another two-time First Team All-GNAC selection and All-American in senior midfielder Grace Eversaul, who earned third-team honors from the Division II Conference Commissioners Association (D2CCA) in 2019 after notching eight goals to go with five assists and 21 points. She scored one goal in 2020-21. Sophomore forward Estera Levinte also returns after being named Honorable Mention All-GNAC in 2019.

Northwest Nazarene finished in seventh place in 2019 at 3-7-2 (6-10-2 overall). Head coach Mary Ybarguen and company turned things around in 2020-21, completing a perfect 11-0-0 season with seven shutouts. The Nighthawks are ranked No. 11 in the United Soccer Coaches Preseason Poll.

Returning for the Nighthawks are 18 letterwinners and nine starters, including senior midfielder McKenzie Buell. Buell ranked third among GNAC players in 2020-21 with seven assists and 19 points and fourth with six goals. She was named the United Soccer Coaches Division II Women’s Soccer National Player of the Week for her three-assist performance in a 4-0 shutout of Western Oregon on Mar. 29.

Northwest Nazarene’s leading scorer in 2020-21, junior forward Ashley Parton registered seven goals, three assists and 17 points. On the opposite end of the pitch, junior goalkeeper Alexis Montoya finished the spring with a 10-0-0 record with six shutouts and a 0.41 goals against average.

Central Washington secured the No. 4 seed in the 2019 GNAC Championships with a 6-5-1 conference record (8-9-1 overall). The Wildcats went 2-3-0 in 2020-21. Michael Farrand returns 16 letterwinners and nine starters as he looks to lead the Wildcats back to the tournament in his 21st season at the helm.

Senior forward Sophia Keenan and senior midfielder Paige Devine are the top returners from CWU’s 2019 squad. Keenan was named a First Team All-GNAC selection after scoring two goals to go with two assists and a team-leading 25 shots. Devine totaled two goals and an assist in 16 starts on her way to earning a second-team nod.

Kacey Bingham took over as Western Oregon’s head coach two years ago and immediately built a winning culture. Bingham was named the 2019 GNAC Coach of the Year after guiding the Wolves to a 10-5-3 overall record (7-3-2 GNAC). The record marked the first time since 2002 that WOU won at least 10 matches. Bingham took a team that finished in seventh place in 2018 and turned it into the No. 3 seed in the 2019 GNAC Championships.

Western Oregon went 1-7-0 in the COVID-shifted spring season and returns six letterwinners and one starter. The lone returning starter is junior forward Hannah Rispler, who played and started in seven of the Wolves’ eight matches. Junior defender Jenna Efraimson will help anchor the WOU back line after playing two seasons at Division I Idaho.

Simon Fraser tied for eighth in the GNAC in 2019 after going 2-10-0 in conference play (2-13-1 overall). Simon Fraser did not play in 2020-21 due to the closure of the U.S./Canada border due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Annie Hamel returns 10 letterwinners and 10 starters in her eighth season in Burnaby. Junior midfielder Giuliana Zaurrini earned a first-team nod as a freshman in 2019 after leading SFU offensively with five goals. An honorable mention in 2019, senior defender Emma Lobo contributed to a pair of shutouts.

Montana State Billings went 6-9-2 overall and finished in sixth place with a 5-7-0 conference record under Stephen Cavallo in 2019. The Yellowjackets went 4-5-0 in 2020-21 and bring back five letterwinners and two starters.

Returning to the MSUB starting lineup are senior midfielder Haylee Gunter and senior forward Lexie Bloyder. Gunter started in all 17 matches in 2019, finishing with two assists and a team-leading four goals. She scored one goal in 2020-21. Bloyder had 14 starting assignments in 2019 and scored two goals to go with an assist. She started in all nine matches this spring and scored two goals.

Saint Martin’s tied for eighth place in 2019 at 2-10-0 (4-13-2 overall) under Heather Cato. The Saints went 1-10-0 in 11 matchups against GNAC opponents in 2020-21.

A pair of all-conference honorees return to the pitch for the Saints. Sophomore goalkeeper Ali Campigotto earned Second Team All-GNAC honors in 2019 after ranking third in the conference with 5.82 saves per game. Senior forward Kiersten Madsen, an honorable mention in 2018, led SMU in the spring with five goals.

The 2021 GNAC women’s soccer season begins on Thursday, Sept. 2 with five matches. All eight teams will kick off conference play on Sept. 23.

Rank Team (1st Place Votes) 2019 Record GNAC Record (Finish) Points
1. Seattle Pacific (6) 12-8-0 9-3-0 (2nd) 62
2. Western Washington (2) 23-3-0 12-0-0 (1st) 57
3. Northwest Nazarene 6-10-2 3-7-2 (7th) 44
4. Central Washington 8-9-1 6-5-1 (4th) 37
5. Western Oregon 10-6-3 7-3-2 (3rd) 30
T6. Simon Fraser 2-13-1 2-10-0 (tie 8th) 22
T6. Montana State Billings 6-9-2 5-7-0 (6th) 22
8. Saint Martin's 4-13-2 2-10-0 (tie 8th) 14
Points awarded on 8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis.