by Henry Miller | Sports Editor
Whitworth men’s soccer kicked off their 2019 preseason with two games in California. The Bucs finished their first road trip of the year 2-0, with victories over Chapman University and Redlands University.
The first victory came against Chapman University with a score of 2-1. Junior Devonte Gorman and senior Drew Wilson were a major force for the Pirates offense. Senior goalkeeper Jesse Nunez tallied five saves to help the Pirates win their first match of the season.
The Pirates continued on to face off with Redlands University winning the match 2-1. Whitworth’s offense came by way of seniors Britton Clifford and Chase Reidt.
“We went down to California with no expectations. We felt we were playing teams that were way better than us, and felt we could prove something,” Junior Azzam Azzam said.
The Pirates would go on to lose their next two straight at home to Carroll College 2-1, and to UC Santa Cruz 1-0. The Santa Cruz defense was stifling and would only allow a single shot on goal during last Sunday’s match.
This off-season was important for a team that has been hit with injuries this past season.
“During the off-season we have a very detailed workout plan that includes two-a-days with lifting and running three times a week and Tuesdays and Thursdays spent playing soccer in the gym just to get touches,” Azzam said.
It’s important for the team to maintain their levels of endurance over the summer so they don’t lose a step as soon as the season kicks off in the fall.
“Lots of guys play for local teams wherever they live during the summer. We try to keep building on the good habits we practice during the school season,” Azzam said.
Over the off-season, college teams will always lose players to graduation but will also take on new recruits to rebuild their team. The team said goodbye to Kyle Cacoyannis who had been a long-time anchor for the team but finished his tenure at Whitworth last year.
“We’ve lost a lot of good players. All the seniors have been super impactful, so we’ve lost big parts of our team. We’ve also gained a lot of new talent this year. We brought on twelve new guys, with some of them getting a lot of minutes,” Azzam said. “There is no hierarchy. If you’re coming to practice, working hard, and performing well then you’re going to get minutes and that’s what we want.”
Conference play will kick off for the Pirates Saturday at noon against Linfield University in McMinnville, Oregon. From there, the Bucs travel to Salem for their second conference game against Willamette University. The Pirates’ first in-conference home games will be against Pacific Lutheran University on Saturday, September 28 and against University of Puget Sound on Sunday, September 29.