Soccer men intend to dominate weekend of competition, take top spot in NW Conference

Matt Tesmond

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Illustration: Emily Johnson

The men’s soccer team, bolstered by young talent, returns home this weekend for two important conference contests. The men will square off against a fiery University of Puget Sound team and the preseason favorite  to win the Northwest Conference, the Pacific Lutheran University Lutes.

Luckily, the Missionaries are not short on skill this year and have high expectations for themselves.

“This is the most talented team I have been on in four years,” said senior captain Brian Percival excitedly. “We’re going in [to this season] with the goal of winning.”

“We’ll be very disappointed if we come in fourth or fifth,” added the other captain, junior Michael Bathurst.

Although the team is extremely talented, there have been growing pains, especially with lackluster play early in games. The team had to overcome this problem, coming from behind to beat both Pacific and George Fox on the road last weekend.  

“It takes a little while for the team to start playing its best,” remarked junior defender Dhavan Vengadasalam  of his young team. With 22 underclassmen: 12 of whom are freshman: on a team of 32, strong leadership is required. “Brian and Mike are the two right people for the job,” stated Vengadasalam.

The young team will have to bring all they have on Saturday, when PLU and their potent offense visit Missionary country.

“They have arguably the two best offensive players in the conference,” Bathurst, the starting goalkkeper, said of the PLU frontline he hopes will be held away from his net.

PLU may be the preseason favorite to win the  conference, but the Whitties are a confident bunch. “We don’t need to worry about who we are playing, if we are at our best,” Vengadasalam stated.

“We are the most talented team in the  conference,” remarked Percival, echoing the sentiments of his teammate.

Although the PLU game may be a marquee matchup, the Missionaries are not by any means sleeping on their Sunday opponent, the UPS Loggers. “Their coach gets them fired up,”said Bathurst of the University of Puget Sound team.

“I find them difficult to play because they get downfield quickly,” said Percival of UPS’ kick-and-run style of play.

The game holds a similar importance to the PLU game even though their opponent is slightly weaker. “All of the games have equal importance because no matter who you play you need a result,” Percival affirmed. This knowledge comes from experience, following last season when the team lost similar early season games and ended up coming in second place by 3 points, the equivalent of one win.

The men are looking forward to finally playing in front of a rowdy Whitman crowd. “It’s always more fun with a big crowd . . . Bring your distractions,” Percival joked.

There will be no joking this weekend as the team attempts to send its opponents packing on their way to the top of the conference table.