Bearcats are Seventh in NWC Men's Soccer Preseason Poll

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

SALEM, ORE. -- Willamette University is picked to finish seventh in the 2009 Northwest Conference Men's Soccer Preseason Poll, as voted on by the league's head coaches. The Bearcats will begin practicing next week with approximately 25-30 players.

Defending champion Whitworth University, 14-2-4 overall and 10-2-2 in the NWC a year ago, received all eight first place votes and 72 total points in the Preseason Poll. The University of Puget Sound (10-7-2, 8-4-2 NWC) was second with 47 points in the poll. Pacific Lutheran University (9-8-2, 7-5-2 NWC) was third with 46 points,. while Whitman College (11-2-7, 9-2-3 NWC) and Pacific University (10-6-4, 6-4-4 NWC) tied for fourth with 35 points.

Linfield College (9-10-0, 5-9-0 NWC) ranked sixth with 33 points, and Willamette (3-14-1, 2-11-1 NWC) was seventh with 18 points. George Fox University (2-15-3, 1-11-2 NWC) rounded out the poll in eighth place with eight points.

Willamette seniors Mark Bennett (GK, Salt Lake City, UT/West HS), Casey Dineen (MF, Portland, OR/Jesuit HS) and Luke Lagattuta (D, Albuquerque, NM/Highland HS) will lead the Bearcats. Bennett enters his senior year with 48 appearances in goal, including 44 starts. He has played 3907 minutes in the nets and has made 274 saves while earning a 2.40 goals against average. He achieved a 1.86 GAA in 2008.

Dineen has played in 50 games (47 starts) at Willamette. He has registered three goals and four assists for the Bearcats. He earned all four assists last season to lead the team on his way to earning Second Team All-NWC honors.

Lagattuta has seen action in 55 games including 50 starts. He has been solid on defense and has contributed one goal and one assist. He has taken many of Willamette's free kicks in the offensive half of the field.

Also returning for Willamette is Erik Kaufman (So., F, Portland, OR/Grant HS), who led the Bearcats with six goals and 12 total points last season. Kaufman was chosen Honorable Mention All-NWC.

Head Coach Nelson Larson is set to begin his fourth season in charge of the Willamette men's soccer team. This year, he will have his largest freshman class, with 15 players joining the 'Cats for their first year of collegiate action.

NWC Men's Soccer Preseason Poll (1st place votes in parentheses)
1. Whitworth (8), 72 points, 14-2-4 overall, 10-2-2 NWC in 2008
2. Puget Sound, 47 points, 10-7-2, 8-4-2 NWC
3. Pacific Lutheran, 46 points, 9-8-2, 7-5-2 NWC
4. (tie) Whitman, 35 points, 11-2-7, 9-2-3 NWC
4. (tie) Pacific, 35 points, 10-6-4, 6-4-4 NWC
6. Linfield, 33 points, 9-10-0, 5-9-0 NWC
7. Willamette, 18 points, 3-14-1, 2-11-1 NWC
8. George Fox, 8 points, 2-15-3, 1-11-2 NWC

Goalkeeper Mark Bennett has played 3907 minutes in 48 games during his Willamette career. He has earned 274 saves.

Goalkeeper Mark Bennett has played 3907 minutes in 48 games during his Willamette career. He has earned 274 saves.