The STATE of Soccer in WASHINGTON
The Seattle Pacific University Falcon Men had an excellent season in 2011, finishing second in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) behind undefeated Simon Fraser with a 7-2-1 record, 14-4-2 overall.
The Falcons won a 2:1 overtime playoff thriller over Cal State Dominguez Hills before dropping a 3:2 heartbreaker to Cal State L.A.
Falcons’ head coach Mark Collings participated in a Q & A session below about the school’s outlook this year. See also a school-produced video with the coach.
Mark Collings: We’re really excited about our 2012 recruiting class. We believe that this group is going help continue to build on the foundation that has been developed over the last 4 years. They’re all good students and are really excited about coming to school at SPU. Although we’re returning an experienced group of players we’re expecting this new group to compete for playing time right away. Ian Adams from the Crossfire Academy is an athletic player that has really developed over the last year and will help bolster our midfield. We’re also expecting Matt Merchant from FC Portland and Garrett Jones from Idaho Rush to provide some depth to our midfield. Matt is a 2 way midfielder and Garrett will give us some creativity and a left foot in the midfield.
We knew it was going to be important for us to bolster our defense in this class because we will be losing 4 defenders at the conclusion of the 2012 season. Davis Karaica (Eastside FC), Graham Reid (Idaho Rush) and Bryson Pavel (Idaho Rush) are all very good players that we’re confident will allow us to build a solid a backline. In addition we’ve added a goalkeeper from Spokane Cody Lang that seems to grow, physically and technically each time we see him play.
Of course we’re always looking for guys that can put the ball in the back of the net. We have added 2 forwards that can score goals in different ways. Ian Grissom (Washington Premier) is a big and strong presence up top and Danny Olivas (CCV Stars) is going to provide us with a guy that can create things off the dribble.
What are your specific pre-season / training goals? What’s new this fall in your program?
Training camp is always interesting because each team is different and we only have a couple of weeks to get ready for our 1st game. This year we return 8 starters from last year’s team and a number of other guys that have a lot of experience. At the same time we have 9 new players. So, it’s going to be important to find a balance between letting the older guys find a rhythm, but also teaching the new players our system and incorporating them into the program. Another key to training camp is always going to be keeping guys healthy. We really try to monitor the amount of work that the players are putting in as well. The last thing that we want to do is have a team that is injured physically and tired mentally when our first game rolls around. So, we will mix in quite a few team-building activities.
What are the challenges / opportunities inherent in your 2012 match schedule?
We always try to play the strongest schedule possible and this year isn’t any different. Our season opens with 2 tough road games at Notre Dame de Namur and Chico State. I think that NDNU was one of the best teams we played last year and Chico State is coming off of back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances. Then we come home for games against Dixie State and Grand Canyon. We haven’t played Dixie State, but they’re coming off of a good year and Grand Canyon is one of the top programs in the region. Of course the quality of the teams in the GNAC will always make our schedule a challenge. Very rarely do you see games in our conference being decided by more than one goal, which is a testament to the quality of coaching within the conference and the competitive spirit of the players.
Who are 3-4 players you’ll rely on this season for success? Why are they important?
As I said before we return quite a few players from last year’s team so we will be looking for those guys to build on the success of last year. Our goalkeeper Zach Johnson is coming of an All American season as a Junior and we’re going to need him to have another year like he did last year. In addition, Jon Pearman is returning at center back after being named GNAC Defensive MVP and an All American as a Junior. We need both of those guys to have strong years for us in the back. Caleb Nyone is the anchor of our midfield and is a guy that allows our attacking players a lot of freedom. Our leading goal scorer from last year’s team graduated and we’re hoping that the combination of Blaine Carver, Kyle Peterman and Elliot Morton can put the ball in the back of the net.
Where do you see your program in terms of competing within your conference? What other season goals do you have?
I expect our team to compete for the GNAC championship this year. Last year we finished #1 in the region and hosted the NCAA regional tournament for the first time in quite a while. Our goal is get back into the NCAA tournament and to advance beyond the regional final. At SPU we want to compete for National Championships. Getting to the tournament is the first step and now that we have some experience in the tournament to draw from I hope that we’re ready to make a deep run.
2012 SPU Falcons Men Schedule