Men cruise through GCU

If there was any snag in the Falcon’s offensive production coming into last weekend, they straightened it out in the second half of Friday night’s game against Grand Canyon University (GCU).

The Falcon offense came alive on three goals in that half, intimidating a GCU defense that held them to just seven of their season high 23 shot attempts in the first half.

Coming into the game, the Falcons had picked up two goals in their last three games, the least they have scored in any three-game span this year. The first of those three games came in a 2-0 loss to Seattle University (SU). They scored 12 goals in the three games previous to that loss. Their defeat at the hands of SU snapped a 10-game winning streak.

"The [last] three games … were three very tough games, so I don’t think our offense was really in a slump," Falcon senior defender David Smith said. "I think that against SU our chances didn’t fall, we hit the bar a few times and never really found our rhythm … We just were able to finally start converting again, so it was very refreshing to start scoring goals again."

The attack for the Falcons started with 31:07 to go in the game, as forward Nick Letts took a pass from Jeff Hallenbeck and swiped by goalie Byron Bent and into the net to give the Falcons the 1-0 lead. The goal came after forward Jeff Hallenbeck saw the opportunity to set Letts up and kicked it from the right corner of the field to the left side of the box to set up the score.

"It was a great cross from Jeff, and I got some power on it and put it home," Letts said about his third goal of the year and his first since the team’s Sept. 18 showdown against Tampa Bay in Miami.

SPU added what proved to be the game-deciding goal exactly five minutes after their first, when midfielder Suad Krkic moved the ball around two defenders and swept it by Bent with 26:03 left, scoring the first goal of his career for SPU. The Falcons added an insurance goal after James Coggan took the kick pass from Letts and drilled it passed Bent and into the right side of the net.

In keeping with their modus operandi, the Falcons held tough with their defense. They allowed the Antelopes only two shot attempts in the first half and six in the game, both season bests for their defense.

GCU did get on the board with 20:39 when forward Ugljesa Vrbica took an in-bound toss from teammate Chad Williams, circled the ball around to the inside box and slid it past goalie James Ward. This goal is Vrbica’s fourth of the year.

The Falcons had several opportunities to score against the Antelopes earlier in the game, both at the foot of forward Andy Willis. The first came just 10 minutes into the game, when he drove hard to the net and tried to blast it by Bent, who tipped it out of the net to pick up the first of his five saves of the game. With 13:03 to go in the half, Willis was able to get it passed Bent and into the net, but was ahead of the rest of the Antelope defense and was called off-sides.

Willis, the team’s second leading goal-scorer, with four this season, came out of the game against Western Washington on Sept. 16 with back spasms. According to Smith, the injury was the reason Willis missed his first game of the season last Tuesday in the draw against Simon Fraser.

Letts almost put the Falcons on the board earlier in the game with about six minutes left in the first half, after forward Andy Willis kicked from the right side of the box on a cross. Letts headed the ball off the top left corner of the Antelope post, just missing the score.

"The cross was a really good cross," Letts said. "I should have put it on goal but didn’t quite get it."

The Antelopes came into town winners of three straight, after starting off the season 0-12-1 in their first 13 games. They have now been outscored by opponents 20-4 in the second halves of their 17 games this season (35-9 overall).

However, according to Smith, the Antelope’s aggressive defense throughout the game belied their record.

"Looking at Grand Canyon’s record, everybody thinks it’s going to be a blowout," said Smith. "But when you look at the scores of all their games they haven’t really been blown out all season … They’re a decent team athletically, and what they lack in skill they make up for in defensive organization."

With the win, the Falcons bettered their overall record to 11-2-2 and to 4-2-1 at Interbay. This win, in addition to the draw against Simon Fraser, keeps the Falcons at No. 18 in Division II of the NSCAA polls. They also move to the fifth spot in the Far West Region polls.

The men finish up their three game home-stand tonight against California State Chico, who come into Interbay with a 6-7-3 record overall, with losses in both of their two non-conference games on the road this season. After that, they will play their final games against conference rivals, heading to Championship Field to play SU on Saturday and then coming back home to finish out the season against Western Washington University.

According to Smith, however, the team must take the approach of winning one at a time before those showdowns.

"Chico has always been a very tough opponent and it’ll be a tough game," Smith said, "but we’re just taking it one game at a time at this point and really just focusing on Wednesday, and not really thinking to much about the next two games after that."

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Title: Men cruise through GCU | Author: David Grimberg | Section: Sports | Published Date: 2004-10-27 | Internal ID: 4148