Willamette Men's Soccer Picked Eighth in NWC Preseason Poll

By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110

SALEM, ORE. -- Willamette University has been picked to finish ninth in the Northwest Conference men’s soccer standings during the 2007 season, according to the NWC Preseason Poll. The University of Puget Sound was chosen to win its second consecutive NWC title. All eight NWC head coaches voted in this year’s poll. UPS was listed first on four ballots, Pacific Lutheran University ranked first on three ballots and Linfield College received one first place vote.

In 2006, Puget Sound took first place in the NWC championship with a 10-2-2 record (32 pts.). The Loggers finished three points in front of Whitworth University (9-3-2, 29 pts.) and four points in front of Pacific Lutheran (9-4-1, 28 pts.).

Puget Sound topped this year’s NWC Preseason Poll with 62 points. Pacific Lutheran followed in second place with 55 points and Whitworth was third with 51 points. Linfield ranked fourth with 40 points, while Pacific University was fifth at 31. Whitman College held sixth place at 27 points, George Fox University was seventh at 22 points and Willamette was eighth with eight points. The Bearcats ended 2007 with a 1-17-1 overall record, including 0-13-1 in the NWC.

Willamette will be out to make significant improvements this season, as Head Coach Nelson Larson begins his second year as the leader of the Bearcats. Key returning players include five seniors: forward Michael Rodrigues (Beaverton, OR/Southridge HS), defender Thomas Cloutier (Beaverton, OR/Westview HS), forward Austin Buell (Ashland, OR/Ashland HS), midfielder Trevor Jones (Portland, OR/Grant HS) and midfielder Ben Ward (Salem, OR/South Salem HS).

Rodrigues led Willamette in scoring last year, with five points on one goal and three assists. Cloutier provided two goals, Buell added one goal and two assists, Jones achieved one goal and one assist, and Ward contributed one goal. The Bearcats hit the nets just 11 times in 19 games, but expect more offensive firepower this season.

Other important returning players are goalkeeper Mark Bennett (So., Salt Lake City, UT/West HS) and defender Luke Lagattuta (So., Albuquerque, NM/Highland HS). Bennett started all 19 games and was in goal for 1,677 of the team’s 1,736 minutes. He recorded 116 saves and a 2.58 goals against average. Lagattuta helped anchor the Willamette defense and also provided key passes in moving the ball through the midfield.

Willamette will play its first game of the regular season on Friday, Aug. 31 against Cal State-East Bay. Game time at Sparks Field on the WU campus is set for 7 p.m. (PDT). The Bearcats also are set to play at home on Sunday, Sept. 2 at 12 p.m. (PDT) against the University of California-Santa Cruz.

2007 Northwest Conference Men's Soccer Preseason Poll

Michael Rodrigues returns for his senior season after leading the Bearcats in scoring in 2006.

Michael Rodrigues returns for his senior season after leading the Bearcats in scoring in 2006.