Aug. 28, 2007
BULLDOGS OPEN SEASON: Gonzaga University will open the 2007 season with a tough California road swing. The Bulldogs will be at UC Irvine Friday for a 7:30 p.m. match, then get a shot at defending College Cup champion UC Santa Barbara Sunday at 2 p.m. UC Irvine was ranked as high as 18th in one of the final 2006 polls, while UCSB defeated UCLA 2-1 for the College Cup title to cap a 17-7-0 season. The Gauchos were unranked heading into the NCAA Tournament.
DEFENDING CHAMPS: Since 1993 when Gonzaga University joined the West Coast Conference and upgraded its men's soccer program to true NCAA Division I status, the Bulldogs have played the defending national champion just once. The Bulldogs fell 1-0 at UCLA on Sept. 17, 1998, the season following the Bruins' 22-2 national championship season.
PLAYING NO. 1: Defending College Cup champion UC Santa Barbara is ranked No. 1 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA)/adidas pre-season poll, and when Gonzaga University takes the field Sunday to meet the Gauchos it will be the third time in program history the Bulldogs have tackled No. 1. In 1999 the Bulldogs faced the No. 1 team twice - besting top-ranked Creighton University 1-0 Sept. 26 at the Blue Jays Diadora Classic, then two weeks later falling 1-0 at No. 1 Santa Clara University in a West Coast Conference match on Oct. 8.
RANKED TEAMS: Four teams dotting the 2007 Gonzaga University schedule are found in the pre-season rankings. UC Santa Barbara is No. 1 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America/adidas Top 25, third in the College Soccer News Top 30 and fourth in the Soccer America Top 25. Santa Clara University is sixth in the NSCAA/adidas poll, fifth in the Soccer News balloting and eighth in the Soccer America rankings. The University of Washington, which visits Gonzaga Sept. 7, is 17th in Soccer News and 18th in NSCAA/adidas, while Northern Illinois University, the Bulldogs foe in the Stephen Hensor/Joe Zaher Classic hosted by Oregon State University, is 26th in the Soccer News Top 30. Gonzaga went 2-1-1 against ranked teams last year - all in West Coast Conference play. The Bulldogs lost at No. 23 University of San Francisco 2-1 and played No. 17 SCU to a double-overtime scoreless home tie. In the re-matches, Gonzaga downed No. 16 USF 2-1 in double OT and No. 7 SCU 2-1 in overtime.
HOME ONCE IN SEPTEMBER: When the University of Washington visits Martin Field Sept. 7 it will mark the only home appearance in September for Gonzaga University. Following the dogfight with the Huskies the Bulldogs won't return home until Oct. 12 to face Loyola Marymount in a West Coast Conference match, beginning a stretch of 5-of-6 matches at home.
LAST SEASON: Gonzaga University was in the West Coast Conference title hunt until the next-to-last weekend of conference play last season. After a 0-3-0 start in conference play the Bulldogs went 6-2-1 down the stretch to finish third in the WCC. The six wins and third-place finish were the highest for the Bulldogs since the WCC adopted double-round robin play in 2004. Gonzaga finished 9-8-2 overall, the most wins since a 9-5-2 season in 2001.
SENIORITIS: No fewer than 10 seniors dot the 2007 Gonzaga University 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. He has scored 12 goals in each of the past two seasons while earning All-WCC first-team recognition and 2006 Far West Region first-team accolades by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA). John Palladino and John Reha tied for second last season with 12 points each, and Grant Lundberg was fifth with 10 points. Palladino was a second-team All-WCC pick last season while Reha was accorded honorable mention recognition. In goal the Bulldogs return Vito Higgins, a 2005 All-WCC honorable mention pick. He posted a 1.47 goals-against-average last season, the best by the Bulldogs since the NCAA Tournament team of 2001 allowed just 0.85 goals/match. Senior defenders Austin Washington, a 2006 All-WCC second-team choice, and Daniel Scott give the Bulldogs a solid front line of defense. Other returning seniors are keeper Dade Smith, midfielder/forward Grant Lundberg, midfielder Scott Campbell and forward Luke Miller.
BULLDOGS VS. ANTEATERS, GAUCHOS: Gonzaga University is 2-5-0 against UC Irvine and 2-1-1 against UC Santa Barbara. The Bulldogs last faced UC Irvine in 2001, the Anteaters taking a 1-0 home decision, their third straight shutout win in the series. Gonzaga last defeated UCI 3-0 in 1997 in Corvallis, Ore. The Bulldogs and Gauchos haven't met since 1998, Gonzaga capturing a 5-0 road verdict. The Bulldogs also won 2-1 in overtime at UCSB in 1997 and bring a two-match winning streak over the Gauchos into Sunday's fray.
THE THORARINSSON TALE OF THE TAPE: Gonzaga University head coach Einar Thorarinsson is 101-95-16 entering his 13th season with the Bulldogs. His overall record is 224-146-29 that includes nine seasons across town at Whitworth College. He picked up his 100th Gonzaga win last season with a 3-0 home win at Saint Mary's College. After going 3-10-2 in his first season of 1995, the Bulldogs have had winning seasons in six of the last 10 seasons under Thorarinsson. His teams led the West Coast Conference in wins with a 14-4-0 record in 1997 and 12-4-2 mark in 1998, capturing WCC co-championships in each of those seasons. The Bulldogs were 9-5-2 in 2001, making their inaugural College Cup appearance. In 2005 Gonzaga went to the final match of the season with a chance to win the WCC title. He was accorded his third WCC Coach of the Year honor in 2005 to go with similar honors won in 1996-97 as he was the first coach in Gonzaga history to receive back-to-back WCC Coach of the Year accolades. He is the fourth winningest coach overall in WCC contests with 41 wins and is second among active coaches, Seamus McFadden of the University of San Diego atop both lists with 66 wins.