Aug. 24, 2007
SPOKANE, Wash. - Gonzaga University head men's soccer coach Einar Thorarinsson will get his first "live" look at the 2007 version of the Bulldogs Sunday when Trinity Western University visits for a 1 p.m. exhibition match at Martin Field.
The Bulldogs and TWU are no strangers to each other. The Bulldogs took a 3-1 exhibition win a year ago from the Spartans, who hail from Langley, British Columbia. But the Canadians got a measure of revenge from the Bulldogs last April, grabbing a 1-0 win in a spring match played at Western Washington University.
TWU went 7-5-2 for 23 points and fourth place in the Canada West standings during the regular season. But the Spartans got hot in the post-season, capturing the Canada West tournament title with a 4-1 win over the University of Calgary. In the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) playoffs TWU captured the silver medal, falling 1-0 to host University of Alberta in the championship match.
Junior defender Justin Farenik, the MVP of the CIS playoffs a year ago, returns for TWU.
The Spartans are 1-1-1 this fall heading into a Friday night match at Oregon State University. TWU defeated Calgary 1-0, lost to Concordia of Portland, Ore., 1-0 and played Simon Fraser University to a scoreless tie in the season opener.
Thorarinsson and the Bulldogs enter the season with a severe case of senioritis - in a good way.
No fewer than 10 returning seniors dot the 2007 Bulldog roster, including four who received All-West Coast Conference recognition in 2006 and a fifth who was a 2005 honoree.
The Bulldogs are paced by forward George Josten who is the two-time defending scoring champ in the WCC and a Hermann Trophy Watch List Candidate. His He has scored 12 goals in each of the past two se29 career goals and 68 career points both rank fourth on the Gonzaga single-season charts. A two-time All-WCC selection, Josten was also a 2006 Far West Region pick by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America/adidas and an ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America selection.
"This is a great honor for George, the program and the university," Gonzaga head coach Einar Thorarinsson said of Josten's Hermann Trophy candidacy. "George would be the first one to tell you this is a team honor, not an individual honor, but he has worked hard to get where he is today. I think this speaks highly for the type of individual George is and shows we are recruiting quality student-athletes."
And Josten is far from a one-man show.
Midfielders John Palladino and John Reha tied for second last season with 12 points each, and midfielder/defender Grant Lundberg was fifth with 10 points. Palladino was a second-team All-WCC pick last season while Reha was accorded honorable mention recognition.
"I think we have the offensive weapons," Thorarinsson said upon entering what he hopes will be a lucky 13th season on the sidelines. "This has the potential to be our best offensive unit in school history."
In goal the Bulldogs return Vito Higgins a 2005 All-WCC honorable mention pick. He posted a 1.47 goals-against-average, the best by the Bulldogs since the NCAA Tournament team of 2001 allowed just 0.85 goals/match.
While Higgins is the last line of defense, he had some solid support in front of him. Senior defenders Austin Washington, a 2006 All-WCC second-team choice, and Daniel Scott give the Bulldogs a solid front line of defense.
"Our defense should be solid. Vito has the tools to have a big senior season, and the players in front of him are experienced," Thorarinsson noted.
The 10 seniors give Thorarinsson perhaps his most experienced Gonzaga squad.
"We have some good frontline players," said Thorarinsson. "We were able to get into what we wanted to do earlier in training camp because of the veterans. We didn't have to spend a lot of time on fundamentals."
Last season the Bulldogs were in the title hunt until the next-to-last weekend of WCC play. After a 0-3-0 start in conference play the Bulldogs went 6-2-1 down the stretch to finish third in the WCC. Included in the Bulldogs' successes last season was a 0-0 double-overtime tie with 17th ranked Santa Clara University, a 2-1 double-overtime victory over 16th ranked University of San Francisco and a 2-1 overtime win over 7th-ranked SCU in the regular-season finale. In 2005 Gonzaga went into the final weekend of the regular season with a chance to claim the title, suffering a 2-1 loss to dash any title aspirations.
All of which makes Thorarinsson think this year's team is ready.
"Our seniors are hungry. They've been close a couple of times and they know this is their last chance," he said. "Plus, our younger players want the seniors to achieve their goals."
While the Senior Class is top heavy, the Bulldogs also got some outstanding performances from some younger players last season.
Sophomore defender Tim Muravez started 15 of his 16 appearances as a freshman, junior midfielder Bryan Mullaney played in all 19 matches with 14 starts and freshman defender Nick Barclay appeared in 13 matches and had one start.
Two newcomers who could make big contributions this season are freshmen Philippe Garre and Nick Love. Garre, who joined the Bulldogs from Brophy College Prep in Scotttsdale, Ariz., scored 21 goals and added 15 assists in earning Desert Valley Region Player of the Year and All-Arizona honors in leading Brophy College Prep to a 17-1-2 record, the loss coming in the quarterfinals of the Arizona State 5A Tournament after being ranked No. 1 most of the season. Love is a two-time All-State first-team, and was named the Honolulu Advertiser and Honolulu Star-Bulletin State Player of the Year as a junior for legendary Punahou High in Kaneohe, Hawaii. A two-time Interscholastic League of Honolulu (ILH) Co-Offensive Player of the Year, he scored 16 goals and had 9 assists in 2006, and 12 goals and 5 assists in 2007 as Punahou successfully defended its Hawai'i High School Activities Association State Soccer Championship.
"We have some good young players, and we're going to have to rely on many of them for our depth," Thorarinsson said.