2010 Men's Soccer Preview
Aug. 23, 2010
BELLINGHAM, Wash. - The Western Washington University men's soccer team can count on experience as it chases a post-season berth in the 2010 season.
The Vikings, who were 8-11-1 overall and finished second in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference at 5-3 in 2009, have frequently been contenders for the GNAC title, winning the crown in 2008, but have never reached the West Regional of the NCAA Division II National Tournament.
A total of 14 players who saw regular action last season return, meaning the Vikings have at least one experienced player at every position, and in many cases more than that. Headlining that group are junior forward Kellan Brown (Tacoma/Bellarmine Prep) and junior midfielder Oscar Jimenez (Mount Vernon), both first-team all-GNAC selections last season, and senior Gibson Bardsley (Fall City/Mount Si), a second-team choice last season after being a first-team pick the previous two years.
"We have a ton of returning talent and experience," said Western coach Travis Connell (12th year, 102-98-12). "And it isn't just time in the program, there's a lot of kids who have played almost every minute since they were freshmen. Our leaders are hungry for success and willing to do the work to achieve it."
That talent and experience is particularly apparent in the attacking roles. The top four scorers from last season return, having tallied 25 goals between them.
"We won't have a problem scoring goals," Connell said. "But we have to find the balance between being aggressive and still being safe in the back. Sometimes we found that last year and we looked great, but in other games we struggled with it, both with being too aggressive and playing too safe."
Brown, who started his collegiate career as a midfielder, moved to forward last year and brought immediate dividends, scoring a team-high 10 goals and adding five assists to become a unanimous all-league selection and a first-team all-West Region pick.
"We moved Kellan up front to `release the shackles' and just let him go," said Connell. "He hasn't looked back."
Bardsley had five goals and an assist last season, and his 25 career goals are tied for fourth in school history and his 11 assists are sixth.
"Gibson has been a threat since his freshman year, every team we play game plans to stop Gibson Bardsley," said Connell. "He's a very important player on our team."
A different option up front is provided by senior Brendan Quilici (Battle Ground/Columbia River), a big target who scored four goals last season, but whose value goes beyond that, according to Connell, because of the unsung things he does to help out off the ball.
Jimenez, a second-team all-West Region pick last season, leads the midfield. He had six goals and five assists in 2009.
"When the ball goes through Oscar, we play our best soccer," said Connell. "He's great technically, he sees the field well, and he also finds ways to get forward and score goals."
Joining Jimenez in the central midfield in a holding role is likely to be either senior Matt Fishbaugher (Redmond) or senior Kenny Parker (Seattle/Blanchet), both of whom have recovered from injuries that limited their time a year ago. Fishbaugher played 13 games last season, scoring two goals, Parker played 10 games, starting six, and had one goal.
There's also depth at the wide spots, where senior Darragh Simm (Woodinville), junior Keith Ferris (Richland) and sophomore Justin Moore (Port Orchard/South Kitsap) will battle for time. Simm and Moore each had one goal and two assists in 2009. Freshmen Stephen Hughes (Vancouver/Columbia River) and Andrew Weishaar (Puyallup) are also likely to see time somewhere in the midfield.
The backline may not be quite as deep as other areas after GNAC co-Freshman of the Year Chris Brundage transferred to Washington, but there's still a good core of returnees. Leading the way is senior center back Thomas Kauffman, who has started 31 games over the last two seasons. Sophomore Bryan Hall (Tacoma/Stadum) figures to be alongside him. At the outside backs, seniors Cris Geday (Vancouver/Skyview) and Sean Connor (Mount Vernon) figure to be the starters. Parker started 11 games before missing time with injuries, Geday made nine starts last year.
Senior goalkeeper Christian Warman (Mount Vernon) is in his fifth year in the program. He played in five games last year and has a total of 14 career starts.
"He's chomping at the bit, he wants to put his stamp on things," Connell said of Warman. "I have no doubt he'll win us some games this year."
The GNAC champion in men's soccer does not receive an automatic berth into the West Regional, meaning nearly every game holds significance in the chase for a post-season spot. Western opens with five straight non-conference games, including three against West Region opponents in the first five days of the season.
"We have a really deep team, and you need that depth if you're going to win both conference and non-conference games," said Connell. "Most of our guys have won a conference title, they've also tasted having their hearts broken. The players are motivated, and they know how to get where they want to be."
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