WWU hopes hard-working attitude will breed success in 2012
Aug. 23, 2012
BELLINGHAM, Wash. -
By ANDREW LANG -- THE BELLINGHAM HERALD
When hard work meets opportunity, success often follows.
It's a thought the Western Washington University men's soccer team is counting on this season.
Kellan Brown, who led the Vikings in scoring with seven goals last season, is gone. Brown's goal-scoring partner, Tyler Bjork, has graduated. Midfield maestro Oscar Jimenez's eligibility has run out. Add the departures of Sean Connor and Keith Ferris, and WWU is a bit thin on veteran experience.
Senior Justin Moore believes Western can remedy what the club lacks in logged minutes, though.
"We are really hard-working, and that is our No. 1 strength," Moore said in a phone interview. "We come off as a blue-collar team, who can overcome maybe a team with more talent simply by our work rate. I think that will be the key to our success this season."
There may be no better senior role model to have on a young, hard-working club than Moore.
"He has a great work ethic," WWU coach Travis Connell said in a phone interview of his versatile senior. "He cares a lot about (the team). It's hard to judge the impact of the weight of a person's passion (on the game), and when he is on the field he is super competitive and cares a lot about how everyone performs. He plays with heart, and that's a great characteristic to have."
So is being able to play almost any position on the field.
When Connell recruited Moore from South Kitsap High School in Port Orchard in 2008, he envisioned him playing either an attacking or a defensive role.
Four years later, Connell is still shifting Moore around.
"He is a very versatile player," Connell said. "There's not too many players who can play multiple roles."
Moore trained as a forward his freshman year, but adjusted to the back line as a sophomore and played there as a junior. He's moved around so much, he's still not certain what his role will be this year.
"I really don't know. I'm not sure," Moore said. "My senior year I was expecting to perfect my role (as a defender). Now I've been moved up to a more attacking role. Whatever position I'm in, I hope to contribute in any way possible."
Connell considers Moore's ability to change positions a testament to his versatility. He said he's been impressed his senior has been able to play multiple roles at a highly competitive level.
"He's proved he can score, and he can also defend," Connell said. "He is athletic and very fast. That certainly helps him."
Though Moore is leaving the back line, he and Connell agree defensive play is key to WWU improving on their fifth-place finish in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, 5-11-1 overall record and 1.82 goals against average in 2011.
Goalkeepers Keegan Rogers and Leo Cohen give Western two strong options in what Connell figures to be a tight battle for a starting spot. Cohen started five games and recorded a goals-against average of 2.64 in 2011, while Rogers' average was 1.52 in 12 starts.
"Our goalkeeping situation is great," Connell said. "Keegan and Leo are some of the best goalkeepers. They're strong and will help the back."
Seniors Bryan Hall and Jake Jorgensen provide Western veteran presence along the back line, and Connell is hoping incoming freshman Uche Ugwoaba, who played the last two season for Crossfire Premier Academy in Seattle, and Kurtis Pederson - last year's Tacoma News Tribune Player of the Year - can step into defensive roles right away.
"Bryan Hall has been playing well in the preseason, and Jake Jorgensen is getting his first real minutes," Connell said. "Freshman Kurtis Pederson has come in and played well in the back, and Uche Ugwoaba is another player who has looked good. You graduate two record holders in goals (Brown) and assists (Jimenez), our focus is to have stingy defense, so we can be in every game no matter who we play against."
Tye Hastings, Caden Sowers, Pat Cole and Matt Sanchez give Western returning experience in the midfield and, with no Brown or Jimenez, Andrew Weishaar and Sujinda Dangvan are being relied on to shoulder the scoring load up top.
"Extremely important," Moore said of Weishaar and Dangvan's scoring production. "If they don't touch the ball, it's going to be hard to win games. They're our goal scorers. We need to get Andrew the ball at his feet and hope Jin (Dangvan) can come through with some great goals. Both are capable."
Weishaar scored three goals in 10 games last year, before being shelved with an injured ankle. He scored six times as a freshman. Dangvan didn't score last season in his midfield role but scored four times in 2010. Connell believes both have the ability to be prominent scorers.
They'll have to be if Western is going to improve on its 1.29 goals-scored average from a year ago.
Western opens its regular season against nonconference opponent Chico State at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 30, in Chico, Calif. The Vikings' home opener is against Hawaii-Pacific at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 7, at Orca Field on Whatcom Community College's campus.
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