Undefeated Matchups, Border Battles Set To Kick Off
Western Oregon is among three undefeated GNAC teams heading into conference play along with Northwest Nazarene and Simon Fraser.
Western Oregon is among three undefeated GNAC teams heading into conference play along with Northwest Nazarene and Simon Fraser.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023
by Thomas Lal

PORTLAND, Ore. –The road to the GNAC Championships begins on Thursday with all eight GNAC women’s soccer programs in action this week against each other for the first time this season.

The last decade has seen reigning national champion Western Washington win seven GNAC titles, but don’t tell that to the rest of the field who will be aiming to knock the Vikings off their perch. The non-conference schedule has left the conference with three undefeated teams in Western Oregon, Northwest Nazarene and Simon Fraser while WWU has amassed a 2-2-1 record.

The individual quality around the conference has also been exceptional. Entering the first week of GNAC play, eight players across five programs rank in the top 30 of NCAA Division II statistical leaders.

This Week's Conference Slate - Sept. 21-23
  Thursday, Sept. 21
Saturday, Sept. 23
Host Opponent Time Opponent Time
CWU NNU 3 p.m.    
MSUB     SFU 11 a.m.
SMU No. 13 WOU 3 p.m. CWU 2 p.m.
SPU MSUB 2 p.m. WWU 5 p.m.
No. 13 WOU     NNU 11 a.m.
WWU SFU 7 p.m.    

View the complete 2023 GNAC women’s soccer schedule online here.

This Week's Storylines


SATURDAY SPECIAL: Western Oregon (3-0-1) and Northwest Nazarene (2-0-2) both come into GNAC play with an undefeated record. The Wolves lead the pack into the conference slate as the No. 13 team in Division II according to the latest United Soccer Coaches poll. The pair also hold the longest unbeaten streaks in the conference with four games under their belts.

Perhaps the biggest challenge of the week for both the Nighthawks and the Wolves will come on Saturday when the two teams meet for the first time this season in Monmouth. Western Oregon has won both of its non-conference home matches this season and has not lost a game at home since Oct. 21, 2022. To its credit, Northwest Nazarene has been excellent on the road, where it has played all its regular season games to open the season. The Nighthawks come into the week with a 2-0-1 away record. The last time NNU took a win in Monmouth was on Oct. 21, 2021.

Western Oregon has been led by senior forward Chloe Smith who leads not only WOU but the GNAC with four goals and eight points. That tally also ranks Smith 21st in Division II.  In net, junior goalkeeper Sophia Pierce has been one of the best in the business, ranking third in the conference with a 0.29 goals against average and a .917 save percentage. Both are also areas where she ranks in the top 20 of Division II.

Northwest Nazarene’s biggest strength this season has been its defense. The Nighthawks rank second in the GNAC with just one goal allowed in four matches and are tied for first in the conference with three shutouts. The stellar defensive performances have been led by senior defender Makayla Roggow and junior goalkeeper Bailey Blancett, both of whom have played every minute of NNU’s season. Blancett ranks third in the GNAC and 19th in Division II with a .909 save percentage.

Listen: GNAC Insider - Makayla Roggow, Northwest Nazarene Women's Soccer

BORDER BATTLE:  As has been tradition since 2019, Simon Fraser (1-0-1) and Western Washington (2-2-1) will open conference play facing each other. The Vikings have won the last three of these opening border battles with no game being played in 2020 due to COVID-19. The Red Leafs will look to break a longstanding WWU streak that last saw SFU defeat the Vikings on Sept. 17, 2005, 1-0 in Bellingham.

Simon Fraser comes into this week’s match as one of three undefeated teams in the GNAC and is tied for first in Division II with a perfect 1.000 save percentage after not allowing a goal in two non-conference games. Sophomore goalkeeper Sarah Loewen has played all 180 minutes in net for the Red Leafs, making four saves against 18 shots.

The defending national champion Vikings are the only team coming into conference play after playing a non-conference match this week. The Vikings hosted a 0-0 draw against Sonoma State on Monday where they outshout the Seawolves 13-6 but just couldn’t find the back of the net.  Western Washington’s scoring efforts have been led by junior midfielder Gracen Crosby (1 goal, 1 assist) while goalkeepers Claire Henninger and Abigail Trengove have combined for three shutouts.

SWEET HOME SEATTLE: After three games on the road, including a 2-1 win over No. 2 Colorado Mines last Saturday, the reigning GNAC Team of the Week Seattle Pacific (3-2-0) returns home to face Montana State Billings (1-1-1) on Thursday and Western Washington (2-2-1) on Saturday. The Falcons are 1-1-0 at home this season and will look to build on their victory over the No. 2 team in Division II with a pair of wins to open the conference slate.

Seattle Pacific has been one of the top offensive teams in the GNAC, leading the conference in points (23), goals (9) and goals per game (1.80). The offensive output has been the result of formidable scoring depth, with all eight of SPU’s points-scorers contributing two or more points. Senior forward Jacqueline Blakeley and reigning GNAC Offensive Player of the Week sophomore forward Taylor Krueger are tied for the team lead with four points apiece.

Read More: Falcons Open GNAC Play This Weekend (SPU Preview)

MONTANA MATINEE: Montana State Billings (1-1-1) will open conference play on the road at Seattle Pacific (3-2-0) before returning home for the earliest game on this week’s schedule on Saturday against Simon Fraser (1-0-1). The Yellowjackets took a 2-1 win at Black Hills State last time out and are one of four teams coming into the GNAC season on the back of a win.

The Yellowjackets’ offense has been led by freshman forward Kaari Little and junior defender Sunny Benion, both of whom have three points. On the defensive side, goalkeepers Clare Keenan and Tuva Sallvin have kept MSUB tied for fourth in the GNAC with four goals allowed.

EVERGREEN ESCAPADES: Central Washington (1-4-0) and Saint Martin’s (2-1-1) will face off in Lacey on Saturday. Both teams will be hungry to get back into the win column for the first week of GNAC play after dropping matches against Regis last week. The Wildcats will take on Northwest Nazarene on Thursday before the interstate rivalry game while Saint Martin’s will face Western Oregon earlier in the week.

The Saints are scoring on a 1.25 goals per game pace through four matches this season and are led by junior midfielders Mia Fleming and Kaeli Ploettner with one goal and one assist each. The two midfielders are among five different goal scorers for Saint Martin’s. In net, Ali Campigotto and Flavia Burrell have both posted one shutout. Campigotto leads the tandem with a 0.67 goals against average while Burrell takes the top spot on the squad with a .700 save percentage.

Central Washington sophomore midfielder Paige Savage has been one of the top offensive threats in the conference this season, notching two goals in four matches to tie for second in the GNAC with one point per game. Her pair of goals are also tied for second in the conference. Junior goalkeeper Kassandra Jaggard has been the top performer between the pipes for the Wildcats, leading the team and ranking second in the GNAC with a .929 save percentage and leading the conference with 6.50 saves per game.

Player to Watch


Morgan Manalili, Western Washington

After scoring in her collegiate debut last year Manalili was one of the top players in the conference by the end of her freshman campaign, leading the GNAC in scoring with 10 goals and five points en route to being named the conference freshman of the year. While the goals have been tougher to find for Manalili through this year’s non-conference schedule, it has not been for lack of trying.

The Shoreline, Wash., native has fired a team-leading 10 shots while working as part of a new-look Western Washington offensive lineup that is still looking to impose its offensive style on opponents. Manalili has put together some of the best performances of her career when it matters most, so fans and opponents should keep an eye on the sophomore midfielder/forward as she looks to kick off her 2023 campaign with a bang against rivals Simon Fraser and Seattle Pacific this week.



National Rankings

The third United Soccer Coaches Division II rankings of the season came out on Sept. 19 with undefeated Western Oregon (3-0-1) moving up two spots in the rankings to No. 13 after a week off from competition. The Wolves will aim to continue their progress up the polls next week in conference play against Saint Martin’s (2-1-1) on Thursday and Northwest Nazarene (2-0-2) on Saturday.

Poll Team 1 Team 2 Team 3
Preseason 1. WWU RV NNU RV SPU
Sept. 5 1. WWU    
Sept. 12 15. WOU RV WWU  
Sept. 19 13. WOU    
GNAC Women's Soccer In The NCAA Statistical National Rankings

Through games on Sept. 18.

Team Rankings (Top-30)

Assists Per Game: 28. SMU, 1.75
Corner Kicks Per Game: 27. SMU, 6.75
Goals Against Average: 1. SFU, 0.000; 12. NNU, .250; 26. WOU, .500
Penalty Kicks: 1. WOU, 1.000; 1. WWU, 1.000
Save Percentage: 1. SFU, 1.000; 14. NNU, .917; 28. WOU, .882
Shutout Percentage: 1. SFU, 1.000; 15. NNU, .750
Won-Lost-Tied Percentage: 21. WOU, .875

Individual Rankings (Top-30)

Game Winning Goals: 7. Chloe Smith, WOU, 2
Goals Against Average: 1. Sarah Loewen, SFU, 0.000; 14. Bailey Blancett, NNU, .250; 17. Sophia Pierce, WOU, .286
Goals Per Game: 9. Chloe Smith, WOU, 1.00
Penalty Kicks: 1. Gracen Crosby, WWU, 1.000; 1. Chloe Smith, WOU, 1.000
Points Per Game: 20. Chloe Smith, WOU, 2.00
Save Percentage: 1. Sarah Loewen, SFU, 1.000; 15. Sophia Pierce, WOU, .917; 19. Bailey Blancett, NNU, .909
Shot Accuracy: 14. Mikayla Tupper, SFU, .750; 23. Kaari Little, MSUB, .714
Shots Per Game: 30. Chloe Smith, WOU, 4.00
Shots On Goal Per Game: 23. Jackie Sharpe, MSUB, 2.33
Shutouts: 13. Bailey Blancett, NNU, 3
Goals: 21. Chloe Smith, WOU, 4

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. 18 Taylor Krueger, Seattle Pacific Mercedes Cullen, Seattle Pacific

Sept. 18 GNAC Women's Soccer Players of the Week

Offensive: Taylor Krueger, Seattle Pacific

Krueger’s first career goal was a big one as it pulled the Falcons level with No. 2 Colorado Mines at 1-1 in the 35th minute. She followed with an assist on the game-winning goal in the 69th minute, giving SPU the largest upset by a GNAC women’s soccer team thus far in 2023.

Also Nominated: Tatum Zuber, CWU; Kendall McGraw, MSUB; Nicole Lewis, NNU; Taylor Copeland, SMU.

Defensive: Mercedes Cullen, Seattle Pacific

Cullen complemented Krueger’s efforts by making seven key saves amid a barrage of shots from the second-ranked team in the country. Cullen guided the Falcons to victory while facing 17 shots throughout the match, including 11 in the first half. The sophomore did not disappoint in her first start of the season, finishing one off her career high in saves.

Also Nominated: Lauren Becraft, MSUB; Rose Ivanis, SMU.

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.