BELLINGHAM, WA — (school release) The defending NCAA Division II national champion Western Washington University women’s soccer team has officially announced its 2017 preseason and regular-season schedule.
Head coach Travis Connell released the schedule that includes 18 regular-season matches, beginning with a pair of games in Northern California on August 31 at Notre Dame de Namur and September 2 at Holy Names. The regular-season slate features six non-conference games and 12 Great Northwest Athletic Conference matches.
“We are excited to get back on the field when the team reports in August,” said Connell. “Last year we celebrated a wonderful season with the national championship, but this year is a new season, presenting difficult opponents and obstacles as we look to continue our success.”
The Vikings have a road-heavy slate, opening the season with five consecutive road games, and will play only seven of 18 regular-season games at Harrington Field in Bellingham. Western’s home opener will be on Saturday, September 16 in the first GNAC match of the season against Western Oregon.
“We love the home field advantage of Harrington Field and having all our fans create a wonderful atmosphere,” said Connell. “But this year we will be on the road a bit more and we love that challenge.”
In addition to the home opener vs. Western Oregon, WWU hosts Simon Fraser (Sept. 21), Seattle Pacific (Oct. 5), Evergreen State College (Oct. 7), Saint Martin’s (Oct. 10), Central Washington (Oct. 21) and Concordia (Oct. 28) at Harrington Field. The Vikings have won 25 consecutive home games, tied for the 13th-longest streak in NCAA Division II history, and have a 26-game undefeated streak in home games vs. league opponents (18-0-1 at Harrington Field).
In addition to the five consecutive road games to open the regular season, WWU will also travel to play Saint Martin’s (Sept. 23), Central Washington (Sept. 28), Montana State Billings (Sept. 30), Simon Fraser (Oct. 12), Seattle Pacific (Oct. 19) and Northwest Nazarene (Oct. 26). WWU carries a streak of 53 consecutive matches against GNAC opponents without a loss
The top four teams in the regular-season standings will play in the GNAC Championships in Portland, Oregon, hosted by Concordia Nov. 2 and Nov. 4. The NCAA Championships will be hosted on campus sites Nov. 10-12 (1st & 2nd rounds) and Nov. 16-19 (West Regional Final & NCAA II Quarterfinals), and the Final Four returns to Swope Soccer Village in Kansas City, Missouri, Nov. 30-Dec. 2.
WWU will play three exhibition matches to prepare for the season, all against Canadian schools. The Vikings host Fraser Valley on August 17 at Harrington Field, and then cross the border to play at the University of British Columbia (Aug. 22) and Trinity Western University (Aug. 24). The squad will host its first team practice on Monday, August 14.
The Vikings are coming off a 24-0-1 season in which they won the NCAA Division II National Championship with a 3-2 victory over three-time defending champion Grand Valley State. WWU has won a record five consecutive GNAC regular-season championships, advanced to the NCAA Championships in each of the last five seasons and played in the NCAA II Final Four in three of the last four seasons. Over this span the Vikings have combined to go 100-9-7 (.892), the second-best winning percentage among all NCAA Division II programs.
The 2017 Vikings return 20 players from last year’s national championship squad, including seven starters and several key reserves. Highlighting the returning players are 2016 GNAC Player of the Year Sierra Shugarts (Sr., Federal Way, WA/Decatur), 2016 GNAC Defender of the Year Emily Webster (Sr., Bellingham, WA/Sehome), 2016 GNAC scoring leader Gabriela Pelogi (Jr., Federal Way, WA) and All-American goalkeeper Ashley Homer (Sr., Puyallup, WA).
WWU also added a talented recruiting class of seven prep players, and three transfers to fill out the roster.
Head coach Travis Connell will be entering his 15th season at the helm of the program and overall his 22nd at WWU. Under his watch the Vikings have recorded 13 consecutive winning seasons and made seven trips to the NCAA Championships. Connell caught up with WWUVikings.com to answer some questions leading up to the 2017 season:
The team will be on the road a lot this season, especially to open the season, compared to being at home a lot last season. How will that impact your preseason preparation?
We love playing at Harrington Field, but more than that, we love a challenge. We expect our players to rise to the challenge of playing 5 consecutive road games in 3 states and 2 countries.
You are the defending national champions…that’s a pressure that will come with every game as you are a target. Do you and your players embrace that challenge?
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” Playing motivated opponents is what makes us better and our players understand that.
What games during the preseason are you looking forward to in preparing for the GNAC schedule?
We will face teams with different styles of play and different types of players. This wide array of styles and opponents will prepare us for many of the challenges we will face in conference.
The GNAC gets tougher and tougher each year…is that your expectation once again?
The GNAC will have talented players and some fantastic coaches as usual, but like any conference, one of the toughest things is how familiar we are with each other. Our conference opponents know us better than any other teams we play. They know exactly how we are going to try and win the game so it forces us to do those things really well.
What are your overall feelings towards the 2017 season as you come out of spring workouts and into the summer prep period?
We are excited to see where the season takes us. Everything is possible at this point. It is all there to play for.
You return a lot of your team, but also have some holes to fill with five seniors graduated. What will the strength of this group center around?
The strength of this group will center around it’s self-belief. They know what it takes and they believe they can do it.
The complete 2017 schedule is as follows and is available online via WWUVikings.com.
|2017 WWU WOMEN’S SOCCER SCHEDULE|
|Aug. 17 (Thu.)||FRASER VALLEY (Exhibition)||BELLINGHAM||5 pm|
|Aug. 22 (Tue.)||at British Columbia (Exhibition)||Vancouver, B.C.||5 pm|
|Aug. 24 (Thu.)||at Trinity Western (Exhibition)||Langley, B.C.||7 pm|
|Aug. 31 (Thu.)||at Notre Dame de Namur||Belmont, CA||11 am|
|Sept. 2 (Sat.)||at Holy Names||TBD||11 am|
|Sept. 6 (Wed.)||vs. Cal State Los Angeles||Burnaby, B.C.||11 am|
|Sept. 10 (Sun.)||at MSU Denver||Denver, CO||12 pm MT|
|Sept. 13 (Wed.)||at Colorado State-Pueblo||Pueblo, CO||12 pm MT|
|Sept. 16 (Sat.)||WESTERN OREGON*||BELLINGHAM||4 pm|
|Sept. 21 (Thu.)||SIMON FRASER*||BELLINGHAM||7 pm|
|Sept. 23 (Sat.)||at Saint Martin’s*||Lacey, WA||1 pm|
|Sept. 28 (Thu.)||at Central Washington*||Ellensburg, WA||3 pm|
|Sept. 30 (Sat.)||at Montana State Billings*||Billings, MT||12 pm MT|
|Oct. 5 (Thu.)||SEATTLE PACIFIC*||BELLINGHAM||5 pm|
|Oct. 7 (Sat.)||EVERGREEN STATE COLLEGE||BELLINGHAM||4 pm|
|Oct. 10 (Tue.)||SAINT MARTIN’S*||BELLINGHAM||7 pm|
|Oct. 12 (Thu.)||at Simon Fraser*||Burnaby, B.C.||5 pm|
|Oct. 19 (Thu.)||at Seattle Pacific*||Seattle, WA||7 pm|
|Oct. 21 (Sat.)||CENTRAL WASHINGTON*||BELLINGHAM||2 pm|
|Oct. 26 (Thu.)||at Northwest Nazarene*||Nampa, ID||4 pm MT|
|Oct. 28 (Sat.)||CONCORDIA*||BELLINGHAM||1 pm|
|Nov. 2-4||GNAC Championships||Portland, OR||TBD|
|Nov. 10-12||NCAA II West Regional 1st & 2nd Round||TBD||TBD|
|Nov. 16-19||NCAA II West Regional Final & Quarterfinals||TBD||TBD|
|Nov. 30-Dec. 2||NCAA II Final Four||Kansas City, MO||TBD|
|Home games (ALL CAPS) at Harrington Field on the WWU Campus
* Great Northwest Athletic Conference
— @WWU_WSoccer —