GCU men’s soccer beats No. 1; tough schedule paying off

After back-to-back wins to open the season, the men’s head coach for the Grand Canyon University men’s soccer team said he wasn’t surprised about the No. 19 national ranking his team received.

“It comes as no surprise to me that our team is ranked in the top 25 nationally after the weekend we had,” said Petar Draksin.  He was referring to a 2-0 win over CSU-Pueblo, followed by a 2-1 victory against Sonoma State.

“Our schedule is set up in such a way that, if we take care of business on the field, the rankings will take care of themselves,” he pointed out.  He was referring to a particularly tough non-conference schedule this season.

Friday night, the Antelopes weathered perhaps the toughest part of that schedule when they took on the defending national champions in Division II, Fort Lewis.   The Skyhawks were ranked No. 1 to start this season – that is, until GCU knocked them from the top spot with a 3-2 upset win Friday on the ‘Lopes home field.

“There is a reason why Fort Lewis is ranked No. 1 in the country,” Draksin said following the game.  “I am so proud of our players for the win tonight.  I thought we played very, very well.”  Fort Lewis is a soccer power that has won two of the last three national titles.

The first half of that game belonged to GCU, as they outshot Fort Lewis, 9-4.  It wasn’t until the 36th minute when the visitors scored the first goal.  Saeed Robinson evened it up for GCU when the senior forward scored off a rebound with under 30 seconds remaining in the half.

Robinson, who was last year’s Pacific West Conference Newcomer of the Year, scored both goals in the preceding game against Sonoma State.  He was named the PacWest Pre-season Player of the Year, and also picked for the pre-season All-PacWest team.

The Lopes turned up the heat in the second half, scoring the next two goals, but were eventually out-shot in the half, 9-13.  Stipe-Darko Medic scored from in front of the goal in the 46th minute, and Zoran Nincevic deposited a free kick at the 72-minute mark.

As might be expected in a game that carried such significance, tempers flared as the game went on.  There were 10 yellow cards issued in the second half.

GCU has 18 players returning from a squad that went 13-4-1 last season, and 9-2-1 in conference play.  There are also 11 new names on the roster and many of those newcomers bring with them college-playing experience from other colleges.

The Lopes won’t have much time to enjoy the conquest since tonight they take on Seattle Pacific, which is the fifth-ranked team in the country and the No. 1 team in the West Region.

“That tells the rest of the story about the schedule we have put together,” adds Draskin, who is in his 20th season in charge of the men’s soccer program at GCU.

Right now, it looks like the game plan is working to perfection.

(Photo: GCU Athletics/ Darryl Webb)