Bearcats and Warriors to Co-Host Capital Classic

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

SALEM, ORE. -- Willamette University and Corban College are separated by only a few miles. So it's no surprise the crosstown rivals are co-hosting the Capital Classic on Friday, Aug. 29 and Saturday, Aug. 30. Also participating in the event are George Fox University and Warner Pacific College.

The first day of the tournament will be hosted by Corban (5000 Deer Park Drive SE in Salem). Willamette and Warner Pacific will open the event at 3:30 p.m. (PDT), with Corban and George Fox meeting at 5:30 p.m.

The Capital Classic will conclude on Saturday at Sparks Field on the Willamette campus. Warner Pacific and George Fox will play at 4:30 p.m. (PDT). Willamette and Corban will battle it out in the final game at 7 p.m.

Willamette enters the season with nine returning players, including four returning starters. The Bearcats also have 13 freshmen on the roster.

Goalkeeper Mark Bennett (Jr., Salt Lake City, UT/West HS) started all 19 games as a freshman in 2006, but battled injuries in 2007. He started six of WU's final 10 games a year ago. He has registered a total of 162 saves the past two seasons.

The Willamette defense also includes returning starter Luke Lagattuta (Jr., Albuquerque, NM/Highland HS). Lagattuta played in every game in 2007, including 17 starts. He recorded one goal and one assist. He will be the most experienced player on a young defense that will have three new starters due to graduation. In addition to leading the defense, Lagattuta will contribute on offense, especially on free kicks and corner kicks.

WU has two returning players in the midfield. Ivan Gutierrez (Sr., Stayton, OR/Cathedral Prep) played a defensive midfield role last year and saw action in 18 games. He will be involved in the attack a bit more this season. Conor Costigan (So., Hillsboro, OR/Glencoe HS) was a forward for the Bearcats in 2007. He tallied two goals and one assist.

In addition to the returning starters, there are two other players returning to the lineup. Casey Dineen (Jr., MF, Portland, OR/Jesuit HS) played in 14 games a year ago and provided three goals before missing the end of the season. Nick Forbes (Sr., F, Carbondale, CO/Colorado Rocky Mountain School) missed all of 2007 after playing in 18 games and scoring two goals in 2006.

Head Coach Nelson Larson is in his third season leading the Bearcats following two seasons as an assistant coach. With a total of 17 freshmen and sophomores on the roster, the team now has a majority of players who Larson recruited.

Willamette was 2-17-2 overall and 0-13-1 in the Northwest Conference last season. The Bearcats, who were increasingly competitive as the year progressed, look forward to continued improvement this season.

Goalkeeper Mark Bennett returns for the Bearcats this season.

Goalkeeper Mark Bennett returns for the Bearcats this season.