Both GCU soccer programs move into Top 10 in region

Maybe the Grand Canyon University soccer teams should leave home more often.  Good things seem to happen on these trips

The men’s and women’s soccer teams are on an eight-day trip to California where they will play the last of four games in the Bay area today.

While they were gone, the women set a new school record and both teams moved up in the rankings.  The women’s team moved into the No. 6 spot in the latest NCAA D-II West Region poll, while the men are ranked at No. 8.

The No. 6 ranking for the women is the highest since the program’s first season in 1996, when they were ranked No. 3 in the nation.  Peter Draksin was the co-head coach on that team, but now is the men’s head coach and Stevie Gill has taken over the women’s program.

The men’s team is undefeated, with a 4-0-1 record going into today’s game with Notre Dame de Namur University.  The women are 5-1-0 and 2-0 in conference and also wrap up today against Notre Dame.

Marina Nesic scored a school-record five goals as the road trip got underway, leading the women’s team to a 6-1 win over Academy of Art in San Francisco on Saturday.  She took seven shots, six of them on goal.

The sophomore midfielder didn’t play last season, sidelined with a knee injury.  But she’s making up for lost time this year.  According to Gill, she likely would have scored several more goals if he not taken her out of the game with 29 minutes left to play.

Kayla Poe, a senior forward who played at Dobson High School in Mesa, put the finishing touches on the game with the final goal in the 77th minute.

And a couple of other local products stood guard at the net.  Junior Stephanie Phillips from Corona del Sol HS in Tempe and freshman Cat Lena from Salpointe Catholic HS in Tucson split the duties in goal, registering five saves between them.

On the men’s side, a sophomore forward out of Pinnacle HS in Phoenix
moved into the scoring lead in the PacWest conference.  Kyle Ciliento, last season’s conference Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year, scored the first goal in Monday’s 4-0 win over the University of Hawaii at Hilo.  That goal was his sixth of the season to tie for the PacWest lead.

Ciliento is off to another big year.  Last season, he led the conference in goals (23), points (51) and game-winning goals (8).

Pat Perkins, a senior forward from Washington, scored two goals in the UofHH game, and goalkeeper, Ben Paneccasio, recorded his third consecutive shutout of the season.  The senior from Australia was the 2009 PacWest Goalkeeper of the Year.

The tilt with Hawaii may also prove to be one of the most physical games the men’s squad will play this year.  There were eight yellow cards issued in the game – half of them handed to the Antelopes.

(Photo: GCU Athletics/Tim Koors)