Men’s Soccer Off to a Fast Start

Arie Knops, Sport's Reporter

A year ago this week, Whitman’s men’s soccer team was preparing for a rivalry game against Whitworth while sitting bottom of the Northwest Conference with a 1-1-4 record, and a 1-1-7 overall record. Fast forward one year, and the team finds itself approaching this matchup in a much different position, this time with the chance to go top of the Northwest Conference with a win.
The team has started 3-1-2 in conference play, and holds a 7-3-2 record overall.

“Last year we played well but had a lot of unlucky games. It was our first year with our new coach, Jose, and we just didn’t have all the pieces together. We gave up a lot of silly goals and couldn’t get the final ball right to get the ball in the back of the net,” senior defender Drew Edmonds said. “This year we are a lot more polished. We have a good amount of experience from last year and we can really put the ball on the ground and dictate the game.”

Junior midfielder Gabe Jacobson believes the team has a new collective mentality.

“I think our success is mainly due to an attitude shift among the team. We are really positive this year, and that started even at preseason: things would go wrong and we would press on, we would keep doing our thing and getting excited instead of dwelling on the bad stuff. That’s both on and off the field,” he said.

One significant change to the team has been the addition of 14 first years to the roster.

“There are a couple of freshmen guys, including some guys that start at goalie, on defense and up top, that are the real deal and have made a huge impact. The whole freshmen class has added a lot of quality to the team,” Jacobson said.

One of these first years making a big impact for the team has been goalkeeper Owen Davis-Bower, who was recognized as the Northwest Conference Defensive Player of the Week last week.

“It was a big honor to be chosen as defensive player of the week, but our whole team stepped up big time to hold both teams to a goal a piece. Everybody did their jobs and it’s very exciting that we were recognized for that,” Davis-Bower said.

Davis-Bower credited the leadership and experience of the returning players in making the transition to the collegiate level easier for all the first years.

“For a team with 14 first years, it has been really important that we have such a solid group of experienced players to help us all adjust to the new playing environment. They make it a really fun team to be a part of, and everybody is out there pushing each other to play better,” he said.

The improvement of the team hasn’t just been noticed in the Northwest Conference but also on a national level. On the September 20th NSCAA NCAA DIII Men’s Soccer poll, Whitman received votes for the first time in recent memory, as well as ranking 6th overall in the West Region. This Saturday’s game could prove vital for Whitman in continuing this upward trajectory.

“We have placed ourselves in a really good position to do great things in this league, and I believe that we have the talent to win the league,” senior defender Paal Nilssen said. “But in order to do that, we need to put good teams like Whitworth away.”

“It’s a rivalry game and we played them tooth and nail last year. They better be ready because this year we won’t be playing like the underdog. We are going to come out to crush them,” Edmonds added.