Win would propel No.9 Vikings to national quarterfinals
COLLEGE: First-team Daktronics All-American and West Region All-Star as junior in 2013 ... Great Northwest Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year on team that had 0.47 goals against average and 14 shutouts ... Started all 23 games ... Had four goals and one assist for nine points ... Scored game-winning goal vs. Dixie State on 9/14/13 ... Second-team National Soccer Coaches Association of America and Daktronics West Region all-star as sophomore in 2012 ... Also second-team Great Northwest Athletic Conference all-star ... Played in all 23 games, making 21 starts ... Had three goals for six points ... Saw action in 17 games, making 12 starts, as freshman in 2011 ... Had three assists for three points ... Three letters.
HIGH SCHOOL: First-team Class 3A all-State and Tacoma News Tribune all-Area pick as senior at Bonney Lake High School ... WIAA Scholar-Athlete ... Four-time, first-team South Puget Sound League all-star ... Helped Panthers reach state championship game in 2010, first time in school history ... Also on squads making state tourney appearances in 2008 and 2009 and played on SPSL title-winning teams in 2009 and 2010 ... Team captain three seasons, coaches award winner as sophomore and team defensive MVP as junior and senior ... Four-year letter winner ... Played four seasons on Washington Premier club team ... Helped squad win Washington State Youth Soccer and Surf Cup titles in 2010 and reach Washington State Cup semifinals in 2009 and 2010.
PERSONAL: Major is early childhood education ... Her father, Randy, competed in soccer at Biola University CA.
Jones quarterbacks Western's defense
By DAVID RASBACH, THE BELLINGHAM HERALD
November 21, 2013
Western Washington University women's soccer coach Travis Connell admits that he coaches a sport that doesn't relate very well to statistics.
Absolutely, it's possible to keep track of how many goals a forward records or how many assists a midfielder dishes out or even the number of saves by a goalkeeper, but what you use to measure a defender's efficiency? There is no earned-run average or fielding percentage as there is in baseball. Nobody keeps track of tackles or sacks like they would for a football linebacker. Not even basketball's steals or blocked shots.
Even though he has no numbers to back it up, Connell is quite certain he's got a fantastic defender in junior Brianna Jones.
"I think you could argue that Bri is the best player on the team," Connell said in a phone interview. "A forward can miss 10 chances and score on one and be a hero. A defender can make 10 stops and miss one, and they're a goat. Bri doesn't miss many -I can only think of one mistake that Bri made this season that ended up leading to a goal against us. She has the consistency you look for at that position."
Consistency is just one of the many attributes that make Jones the centerpiece of a strong Western defense that has helped land the Vikings in the NCAA Division II West Regional final against Cal State San Bernardino at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 22, at Whatcom Community College's Orca Field. Metro (Colorado) State and St. Edward's (Texas) meet in the South Central Regional Final at 5 p.m., with the two regional champions meeting in a national quarterfinal scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 24, at Orca Field.
Western is playing in its third regional final and advanced to the NCAA's Elite Eight for the first time.
If the Vikings are able to do that, Jones and her WWU defensive mates likely will have a big hand in it, once again.
Western has 11 shutouts among its 17 wins this season, including a 2-0 victory over Seattle Pacific in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday, Nov. 16.
"We've traditionally built our team on defense, and Bri has been a big part of that for us the past couple of years," Connell said.
Jones has started all 19 games so far this season after starting 21 of 23 as a sophomore and 12 of 17 in 2011 during her first year out of Bonney Lake High School.
At center back, she's developed into the quarterback of the Vikings' defense, "taking a lot more ownership of what we do back there as she's gained confidence and experience," Connell said.
At 5-foot-8, Jones has the size to match up with the bigger forwards in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference.
She's also got the speed to keep up with just about anyone on the pitch, and Connell called her ability in the air simply amazing.
"She's really a complete player back there," Connell said. "She's a dominant one-v-one defender, very strong in the air, being able to head the ball well; she's got great speed. She's a physically gifted player, and she knows how to work hard to get even better."
And better is exactly what Jones makes the other 10 players on the field.
Jones isn't just good at stopping an opponent's offensive attack, she's strong at turning momentum the other direction and getting Western's attack started.
"There's a big differentiation of teams that have the ability to play out of the back line," Connell said. "Some teams can and some teams can't. It makes a big difference. Having a center back that has the ability and skills and understanding how to move the ball up the field and start the attack like Bri does can make a big difference for a team. It's made a huge difference for us."
Not surprisingly, Jones was selected the GNAC's Defensive Player of the Year, joining GNAC Most Valuable Player Kristin Maris to give the Vikings a sweep of the conference's top awards.
"Kind of like Kristin, it's hard not to vote for her," Connell said. "She was just so dominant. She played the most minutes of anybody on the team. She's hard to take out of the game. She's so valuable, because people just can't get past her. ... She can defend just about anything and everything they want to throw at her. She was obviously the best defender in our league."
Connell and the Vikings hope Jones and the rest of the defense, which included starters Kayla Russ and Katherine Miccile and goal keeper Alyssa Beauchamp in Saturday's win over Seattle Pacific.
The Vikings, who entered as the West's No. 2 seed, got the opportunity to host the next two rounds thanks to the Coyotes' 1-0 overtime win over top seed Cal State Stanislaus.
"Obviously, we have an advantage playing at home, and we want to take advantage of that," Connell said. "San Bernardino is a giant killer. It was a huge upset for them to win last week. With any team, the longer you leave them in the game, the longer they believe they can win. We need to, like we said last week, build the doubt. Getting a fast start is important for us. This is not going to be an easy game for us. We're all excited to be playing in a big game. We're having too much fun right now to want to stop."