SPOKANE, Wash. – Whitworth will open the 2012 men's soccer season this weekend in Minnesota. It marks the second time in four years that the Pirates have opened the year in the Twin Cities.
Whitworth will play both matches on the campus of Hamline University in St. Paul, but the first contest will be a neutral site meeting with Augsburg College on Friday (1:00 pm CDT / 11:00 am PDT). Then the Bucs will take on the host Pipers on Saturday (3:30 pm CDT / 1:30 pm PDT). Both schools are members of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletics Conference (MIAC).
Live video of the matches will not be available and links to live statistics will be posted soon.
The Pirates: Coming off of a 14-3-1 season which included a Northwest Conference co-championship, Whitworth hopes to compete for another title in 2012. But the Pirates will have to do it without seven senior starters from last year who went on to earn either First or Second Team All-NWC.
Whitworth is not without key returning ingredients, however. Sophomore Robby Ubben is the leading returning scorer after he posted six goals and four assists as a freshman. Junior Sam Selisch had five goals last season.
Senior Kyle Novak is back with the Pirates after spending 2011 studying overseas. He will start in goal after posting strong numbers as an important backup in 2009 and 2010.
Back in the Land of Lakes: Whitworth went to Minnesota to open the 2009 season and came away with 1-1 tie at Gustavus Adolphus and a 2-1 win at St. Thomas.
NWC Poll: Despite the loss of so many starting impact players Whitworth was still picked second behind fellow co-champion Pacific Lutheran in the 2012 NWC Coaches Poll. The Lutes picked up five first place votes and 50 points, while the Pirates had two first place votes and 45 points.
The Opponents: Augsburg went 10-5-3 overall and 6-3-1 in the MIAC last season. The Auggies had a very strong defense, posting a team goals-against average of 0.64 in 2011. Both goalkeepers who split time in net return for Augsburg: Will Morlock and Clayton Lynch (both juniors). Senior Josh Sweeney posted four goals and an assist and is the leading returning scorer. The Auggies are picked fourth in the preseason MIAC poll. Whitworth and Augsburg met in the first round of the NCAA Division III tournament in Spokane in 2008. The teams played to a 1-1 tie before the Auggies advanced on penalty kicks (4-2).
Hamline is coming off of a 4-11-2 season (2-6-2 in the MIAC) and are led by first year coach (and alum) Alex Morawiecki. Junior Michael Murphy had four goals and an assist last season, while fellow junior Sam Slagle added two goals and four assists. The Pipers were picked 10th of 11 schools in the 2012 MIAC poll. Whitworth and Hamline have never met in men's soccer.
The Coach: Sean Bushéy enters his 17th season as head coach of the Pirates in 2012. He has a 206-89-33 record after 17 seasons as a head men's soccer coach (196-83-32 in 16 years at Whitworth) and has led the Pirates to six Northwest Conference titles in the last eight years, and seven NWC titles overall. He has been named Northwest Conference Men's Coach of the Year four times (2001, 2004, 2007, 2008). Over the last 12 years, the Whitworth men are 174-55-26 (.733).
Coming Up: The Bucs will host the Whitworth Soccer Classic next weekend, taking on Corban (Ore.) on Friday and Wheaton (Ill.) on Saturday. Fellow NWC member PLU will be the fourth team in the event. Both matches are scheduled to start at 3:00 pm.