GNAC Women's Soccer Championships Kick Off Thursday
The Vikings enter the 2022 GNAC Women's Soccer Championships as the No. 1 seed after clinching the regular-seaon championship on Saturday. They will face Simon Fraser on Thursday in the semifinals.
The Vikings enter the 2022 GNAC Women's Soccer Championships as the No. 1 seed after clinching the regular-seaon championship on Saturday. They will face Simon Fraser on Thursday in the semifinals.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

PORTLAND, Ore. – After an exciting year that saw the regular-season championship and the four tournament seeds not decided until the final day, the conference’s top teams head to Nampa, Idaho for the 2022 GNAC Women’s Soccer Championships, which begins on Thursday.

All four programs are no strangers to the GNAC Championships after qualifying for the tournament in 2021.

Western Washington comes into the tournament on the heels of its ninth regular-season title as the No. 1 seed. The Vikings finished the regular season with a 12-2-4 overall record (11-1-2 GNAC) and were the class of the field, leading the conference in goals, assists, shots, goals allowed and shutouts.

Host Northwest Nazarene lines up as the No. 2 seed, having battled Western Washington for the regular-season title right down to the final day of the season. The Nighthawks enter the GNAC Championships undefeated at home and will look to maintain that record behind the second-highest-scoring offense in the conference and second-ranked goals against average.

Both WWU and NNU clinched postseason berths two weeks before the end of the regular season. This is NNU’s third GNAC Championships appearance.

The reigning West Region champion, Seattle Pacific enters the GNAC Championships as the No. 3 seed. The Falcons clinched a spot in the penultimate week and finished the regular season with a 9-4-1 GNAC record (11-5-2 overall). The Falcons established themselves as a contender early in the season, winning four of five matches to start the conference season and kept up the pace to finish two points behind Northwest Nazarene.

Western Washington and Seattle Pacific have participated in every GNAC Championships tournament dating back to 2011. The two teams faced off in last year’s conference championships and West Regional finals.

Simon Fraser earned the No. 4 seed on the final day of the regular season with a 0-0 draw with Western Oregon, who was just one point back from SFU in the standings. This marks the fourth time that SFU has qualified for the GNAC Women’s Soccer Championships. The Red Leafs finished the regular season 4-5-5 in conference play (5-6-7 overall) and will face top-seeded Western Washington in the first semifinal match on Thursday.

The Vikings will look to leading goal scorers Estera Levinte and Morgan Manalili to continue their offensive output in the postseason. Levinte leads WWU and ranks fourth in the GNAC with 16 points while Manalili ranks second on the team and fifth in the conference with 15 points. Claire Henninger has been the go-to goalkeeper for the Vikings, starting 16 matches with a GNAC-leading 0.59 goals against average. She also ranks second in the conference with seven shutouts.

The Nighthawks come into the postseason with the GNAC goal-scoring leader in junior forward Madison Grande. Her 10 goals make her the highest points-scoring player in the conference, a dangerous combination with goalkeeper Alexis Montoya who leads the GNAC with eight shutouts and a .848 save percentage.

Seattle Pacific comes into the GNAC Championships ranked third in scoring. The team is led by junior forward Sophie Beadle who tallied four goals and is tied for the conference lead with six assists. The Falcons are one of only two teams to feature four players who have scored at least four goals.

The Simon Fraser offense is led by junior forward/midfielder Giuliana Zaurrini who tallied four goals and two assists. The Red Leafs’ backline has also been effective, ranking third in the conference with seven shutouts behind goalkeepers Sarah Loewen and Nicole Anderson.

The Vikings and Red Leafs met twice in the regular season with Western Washington coming out on top on both occasions courtesy of shutout victories. The Vikings took a 3-0 win over SFU on Sept. 15 in Bellingham and a 2-0 win in Burnaby where senior midfielder Tera Ziemer recorded a brace.

Northwest Nazarene and Seattle Pacific will come into their semifinal match already familiar with each other after playing in a match on the final day of the regular season. The Falcons came out with the victory from that meeting with a 1-0 where senior forward AJ DePinto proved to be the difference maker. In their previous meeting, it was the Nighthawks who came out on top with a 3-1 win in Nampa.

The Championship match will be played Saturday at noon. The winner will receive the conference’s automatic berth to the NCAA Division II Championships.