Men’s soccer ranked first in the West Region

While Seattle Pacific’s men’s soccer team continues to climb in the rankings, the target on its back expands.

Although their opponents may be hungry for an upset, overlooking foes has yet to be an issue for the Falcons because playing with a sense of urgency and maintaining focus are two points that head coach Mark Collings has instilled in his team.

“[Collings] always keeps us focused. … We always make sure to not overlook opponents. We have a specialized game plan for each opponent and look for ways to attack them,” junior forward Kyle Smurdon said.

The No. 15 Falcons (11-2-2), currently in second place in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, won a pair of shutouts last week.

After an eight-game road streak, the Falcons finally returned home on Oct. 20 against University of Mary. It was the first home game since the start of Autumn Quarter.

Just like in the previous matchup, a 5-2 victory last month in Bismarck, N.D., the Falcons dominated.

Senior forward Tyler Schultz scored the game’s first goal in the 15th minute. Freshman defender Evan Robicheau netted a goal six minutes later, with a laser into the bottom right corner of the net. In the 39th minute, Smurdon scored to make it 3-0. The Falcons outshot Mary 17-0 in the first half.

SPU continued to control the game in the second half. Schultz added his second goal of the game in the 60th minute. Senior forward Ryan Brand scored the match’s last goal with seven minutes remaining in the game. By the end, SPU had outshot its opponent 25-0.

“It was great to be back home and get a dominating performance by our team,” Collings said.

On Saturday, SPU traveled to Lacey for its final away game of the regular season against St. Martin’s.

Schultz once again ignited the spark early with a goal in the second minute. Smurdon scored for the third time in as many games, with a goal in the 38th minute.

Schultz continued his scoring frenzy with another netter from a penalty kick with a little over three minutes remaining.

The final score was 3-0, but junior goalkeeper Zach Johnson had to earn this shutout, which was his sixth in a row. The Saints had six shot attempts, including three shots on goal that Johnson saved.

Now, the Falcons look ahead to the next opponent: top-ranked Simon Fraser. The Clan defeated the Falcons in Canada, 4-3, which was SPU’s most recent loss.

Since then, the Falcons haven’t surrendered a goal, sit at 5-0-1 and are eager to seek revenge on the only team that sits between SPU and the conference lead.

“We approach every game the same, but it’s a bigger game in the big picture. We have a chip on our shoulder [from the 4-3 loss],” Smurdon said.

While this is a monumental game for SPU, it doesn’t have the same implications for Simon Fraser. Simon Fraser became the first college outside the United States to be accepted into the NCAA in late 2009. All schools must go through a two-year period of candidacy and another year of provisional status before they are fully accepted as members. Thus, Simon Fraser is ineligible for postseason qualification until next fall.

Currently, Simon Fraser is undefeated and No. 1 in the National Soccer Coaches’ Association of America poll. SPU is ranked No. 15. However, this poll doesn’t affect playoff positioning.

The teams in Division II are divided into eight geographical regions. An NCAA committee selects four teams from each region to qualify for the playoffs. In the west Region, there are over 20 teams, from the California Collegiate Athletic Association, the Pacific West and the GNAC. The Falcons are currently ranked No. 1 in the West Region.

“Keeping that No. 1 ranking would be a huge advantage for us. … It would be nice to stay home and host [the playoffs] with our fans,” Schultz said.

The Falcons are in prime position to clinch home-field advantage in the postseason. If SPU wins the remainder of its games, with the toughest test coming tomorrow, the team will likely maintain its No. 1 regional ranking.

Last season, the Falcons were 11-6-2 and finished fifth in the West Region. Since 2006, SPU hasn’t made it to the playoffs. This season would mark the Falcons’ first time in the postseason under Mark Collings’ leadership.

“[The remaining games] are all conference games, and we still have a chance to win the tournament,” Collings said. “We need to take care of business Thursday, but every game is important.”

The game against Simon Fraser kicks off tomorrow at 7 p.m. at Interbay Stadium.

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Title: Men’s soccer ranked first in the West Region | Author: Danny Ciaccio | Section: Sports | Published Date: 2011-10-26 | Internal ID: 7836

Danny Ciaccio

Sports Editor Danny Ciaccio is a junior journalism major. He has been sports editor for The Falcon since March 2012. Danny is also a PR assistant for Sounders FC and the marketing intern for ROOT SPORTS. He plans on finishing school in March 2015 and is a projected first round selection in the 2015 NFL Draft.