Despite suffering its first loss of the season, the Grand Canyon University men’s soccer team has moved up from third place to No. 1 in the West Region in this week’s NCAA D-II poll.
Last week’s No. 1 team, Cal Sate San Bernardino, was upset last week by San Francisco State, and No. 2 Cal Sate Chico dropped a 2-1 decision to Sonoma State.
The Antelopes split a two-game series with Hawaii Pacific last week, as the PacWest No. 1 team, GCU, took on the No. 2 Sea Warriors. Both were unbeaten entering that home contest, with the ‘Lopes sporting an 11-game win steak that extended back to last season.
GCU extended the streak to 12 games with a 2-1 win in the first game on Monday, managing to get the game in following an afternoon of rainstorms. Junior midfielder, Cordero Young, gave the ‘Lopes an early lead on an unassisted goal in the 29th minute.
The opening goal was the seventh this season for Young, which puts him in a tie for third most in the PacWest.
And Mitchell Garcia, a junior who played at Agua Fria High School and then Phoenix College before transferring to GCU, added another score – his second of the season – that turned out to be the winning goal. The midfielder was later named to the PacWest weekly Top 10 Honor Roll for his play in the Hawaii Pacific series.
But the Sea Warriors came back in Wednesday’s match to even the score, handing the ‘Lopes their first loss in a 2-0 game that put GCU at 8-1-1 overall and 7-1-0 in the conference. The ‘Lopes enjoyed an 11-5 advantage in shots and an 8-1 edge in corner kicks, but couldn’t convert them to the goals they needed.
It was another local high school standout, Nathan Scott, who shut the door on the ‘Lopes, scoring the Warriors’ second goal on a penalty kick. Scott, a senior at Hawaii Pacific, was born in Honolulu but attended high school at Sandra Day O’Connor HS in Phoenix, where he was a First Team All Region selection.
The NCAA poll is particularly important in Division II men’s soccer because it will determine which teams will move on to post-season play. Only the top four teams in each of the eight regions will qualify – and winning the conference doesn’t mean an automatic post-season berth. Last year, the ‘Lopes were the PacWest champion but, because they finished fifth in the Region, didn’t qualify for the tournament at the end of the year.
“This is where our program belongs,” said GCU head coach, Petar Draksin, “in the top four in the region and having the opportunity to get into NCAA post-season play year in and year out.”
As play resumes tonight, it doesn’t get any easier.
The ‘Lopes will try to get a new streak started when they face Western Washington on the road. The Vikings are coming off a couple of impressive wins, have scored nine goals in their past two games, and Sunday they took down Hawaii Pacific, 5-2.
(Photo: GCU Athletics/Tim Koors)