by Andrew Goodwin, Sports Information Assistant
SPOKANE, Wash. – Whitworth men's soccer begins its 2018 season with three matches in Pennsylvania this weekend, including one against the defending national champions.
The Bucs open the year on Friday, Aug. 31 with a match against Gettysburg College at 3:00 p.m. (PDT) before taking on defending-champion Messiah College the following day at 2:00 p.m. (PDT) Whitworth closes its road trip against Franklin & Marshall on Monday, Sept. 3 at 4:00 p.m. (PDT).
Live statistics and video links will be available on the Whitworth men's soccer schedule. Please note that all times on the schedule are listed in the Eastern Daylight Time (EDT).
The Pirates: Whitworth is looking for a bounce-back year in 2018 after finishing in fifth place in the Northwest Conference in 2017. The Pirates won the NWC in the prior three seasons before a slow start to their NWC season doomed their chances for a fourth straight title. Northwest Conference coaches picked the Pirates to finish third this year, behind Whitman and Willamette and tied with Pacific Lutheran.
In order to regain the conference championship, the Pirates will need to replace the production of six all-conference student-athletes who graduated in 2017. Senior midfielder Kyle Cacoyannis and junior forward Drew Williams are Whitworth's top returning goal-scorers. Both players scored three times last year. Junior goalkeeper Jesus Nunez is also back after posting a 1.37 goals against average (GAA) in 2017.
The Bullets: Gettysburg finished last season with a 13-5 overall record and a 7-2 mark in the Centennial Conference. Though they lose their top goal-scorer, the Bullets return their best facilitator, Sam Lerman, for the 2018 campaign. Lerman scored three goals with five assists in 2017. Gettysburg also returns Ezekiel Omosanya, an all-conference defender in 2017. Centennial Conference coaches chose the Bullets to finish third in the conference coaches poll.
The Falcons: After winning the national championship in 2017, Messiah enters 2018 as the top-ranked team by the United Soccer Coaches. The Falcons return just one of their top-four goal-scorers, midfielder Nick West, but bring back senior goalkeeper Conner Bell, who finished the year with a 0.59 GAA. Messiah also returns starting defenders Josh Bender and Dakota Rosenberg from a backline that only needed 2.88 saves per game from Bell to hold opponents to just 15 goals in 26 matches last season.
The Diplomats: Franklin & Marshall will be Whitworth's second opponent from the Centennial Conference on the road trip. The Diplomats are the conference's defending champions and finished last year with a 13-6-2 overall record and a 7-1-1 conference mark. Junior goalkeeper Christopher Amoruso returns to the team after posting five shutouts with a 0.67 GAA in 2017. Ryan Corr is the leading goal-scorer among returning players after sending four shots to the back of the net last year.
Looking Ahead: The Pirates return home for a pair of matchups against NAIA foes. Whitworth takes on Northwest on Thursday, Sept. 6 and battles Walla Walla on Friday, Sept. 7.
The Coach: Morgan Cathey continues a long line of highly successful men's soccer coaches at Whitworth University that began with Einar Thorarinsson (1986-1994), who followed his time at Whitworth with a long stint as the head coach at Gonzaga University, and continued with Sean Bushey (1996-2012), who now coaches in Minnesota.
Cathey enters his sixth season as men's soccer coach at Whitworth in the fall of 2018 and has led the Pirates to a record of 67-19-11 through his first five seasons. He guided the Pirates to three consecutive Northwest Conference titles from 2014-16 and made three straight appearances in the NCAA Division III Tournament. Cathey's record against NWC opponents is 50-13-10 over his first five seasons.