Seattle Pacific Men claim GNAC title

(school graphic)
(school graphic)
falconbug208-9_hires-400SEATTLE, WA – (SPUFalcons.com) On a night when Seattle Pacific honored seven departing seniors, it was the return of a junior that sparked the championship celebration.

Stephen MacDonald scored one goal and assisted on another for the seventh-ranked Seattle Pacific men, who clinched their second straight outright Great Northwest Athletic Conference soccer championship with a 3-0 triumph over Saint Martin’s on Saturday at Interbay Stadium.

“To win one is great. But to win a second one back-to-back just shows the commitment that our guys have to consistency,” exclaimed SPU coachMark Collings. “It’s hard to win again. I truly believe this is the strongest that the GNAC has ever been in men’s soccer so for us to only lose one game this season says a lot about the effort that our guys have put in this year.

“Really it’s been for two years. We’ve lost two games in conference in two years. That’s just remarkable.”

The defending champion Falcons (14-1-3) entered the game guaranteed at least a share of the title. They needed a win or tie to claim sole possession of the crown and took care of that early with first-half goals byGabe Kellum, in the 21st minute, and MacDonald in the 37th.

“We did a really good job of putting their backline and goalkeeper under pressure,” Collings described. “Then we were able to get a great finish early on from Gabe off a great ball from Ian (Adams) and that kind of broke the seal a little bit for us. Then we were hungry for the second.”

Keenan dePinna capped the scoring in the 75th minute.

A pair of senior goalkeepers combined for the shutout, the team’s 11th this season.Rodney Greiling(Kentwood HS) started and was required to make only one save before being replaced with 15 minutes remaining by Shamele Battan (Vancouver, Wash./Hockinson HS).

SPU completed league play with a 10-1-3 record, including the current nine-game unbeaten streak that featured eight victories. Next week, they will compete in the NCAA Division II Tournament for the fifth consecutive season.

The playoff field will be announced on Monday at 3 p.m. SPU will get to host the first two rounds of the playoffs if selected as one of the top-two seeds in the West Region.

The Falcons hosting hopes are founded on the fact they lost just one regular-season game, matching last season’s feat when they received the No. 1 seed in the West Region. An SPU men’s soccer squad has never gone undefeated and just one other team in the program’s proud history lost only one regular-season game. The 1987 team was the first to do it, producing a 17-1-4 mark.

The Saints (6-12-1) saw their season end with a 4-10-0 league ledger. They were outshot 20-5 and put just one attempt directly on goal.

SMU goalkeeper Nick Rosato was credited with four saves.

Senior Ian Adams(Shoreline, Wash.) initiated the first scoring play with a through ball Kellum (Rennes, France), who streaked into the left side of the box and sent a 16-yard shot across the goalmouth into the right side netting at 20:49. That was his fourth goal of the season.

MacDonald missed the last month with an injury that sidelined him for eight games. That was a big absence for SPU as he was their leading scorer in 2014 with nine goals and eight assists.

“We were bit by the injury bug this year and losing Stephen early on was a big blow,” Collings said. “He fortunately is back and looks fantastic. To get him out there tonight and have a goal and get some confidence is really important for us moving forward into the postseason. He just poses so many problems for teams.”

The junior forward returned Saturday and entered in the 29th minute. It took him just seven minutes to find the back of the net.

Senior Danny Olivas slipped a through pass that MacDonald gathered before slotting a low, 15-yard shot into the lower right corner at 36:03. That was his second score of the season.

MacDonald and Olivas are both products of O’Connor High School in Phoenix, Ariz.

Opportunistic positioning created the final goal. MacDonald drove a low shot from the left side of the box that caromed off the right post to dePenna (Portland, Ore.) for the easy put-back at 78:08. That was the third goal for the junior midfielder.

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Falcons fans tweeted photos from the stands.
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Falcons fans tweeted photos from the stands.

Before the game a ceremony was conducted to honor the seven SPU seniors on the occasion of their final regular-season home appearance. The senior class is comprised of Adams, Battan, Greiling, Olivas, Garrett Jones and Matt Merchant and Bryson Pavel. Six of them started Saturday and Battan came on in the 75th minute to play in goal.

“Each of the seniors has provided us something different,” Collings said. “They’ve each had different moments where they’ve come through, including Shamele and Rodney. Being a goalkeeper is hard because you don’t get the same amount of minutes, but I can remember specific games in their careers where they had to step up for us and start. Both of them came through big time for us.”

That senior group helped the Falcons compile an outstanding 53-10-13 record in the last four seasons with NCAA Tournament appearances every year. They forged a 28-4-6 home mark at Interbay Stadium during their careers.

“When it comes to on the field, their record speaks for itself. In the classroom you can’t ask for better guys as far as how they perform,” Collings said. “They are all going to graduate in June, which is fantastic. A few of them already have jobs lined up.

“The biggest compliment I can give them is that they are respected by their teammates and their coaches for what they’ve done. They really epitomize everything that we want in a student-athlete as far as character and desire.”

NCAA MEN’S SOCCER
Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015
Interbay Stadium / Seattle, Wash.

at (#7) Seattle Pacific 3, Saint Martin’s 0

Scoring – 1, SPU, Gabe Kellum (Ian Adams), 20:49; 2, SPU, Stephen MacDonald (Danny Olivas), 36:03; 3, SPU, Keenan dePinna (MacDonald), 74:08.

Shots – SMU 5, SPU 20.
Saves – SMU 4 (Nick Rosato), SPU 1 (Rodney Greiling 1, Shamele Battan).
Corner kicks – SMU 4, SPU 6.
Fouls – SMU 7, SPU 6.
Offsides – SMU 1, SPU 3.

Records
Seattle Pacific 14-1-3, 10-1-3 GNAC
Saint Martin’s 6-12-1, 4-10-0 GNAC

Next Up for SPU
NCAA Tournament selection show
Monday, Nov. 9, 3:00 p.m. PST

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