Bearcats will Open Season with Capital Classic at Corban

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

SALEM, ORE. -- Willamette University will open its 2009 men's soccer season on Tuesday, Sept.1 with the Capital Classic against crosstown rival Corban College. Game time on the Corban campus is set for 4 p.m. (PDT). Willamette won last year's Capital Classic, 1-0.

This year, Willamette will rely on four talented seniors, a group of experienced returning players and the largest freshman class in the team's recent history.

Willamette's seniors are Mark Bennett (GK, Salt Lake City, UT/West HS), Casey Dineen (MF, Portland, OR/Jesuit HS), Luke Lagattuta (MF/D, Albuquerque, NM/Highland HS) and Andrew Monbouquette (MF/F, Omaha, NE/Central HS). All four have performed well in preseason practices and will be leaders on the team.

Bennett enters his senior year with 48 appearances in goal, including 44 starts. He has played 3,907 minutes in the nets and has made 274 saves. He has a 2.40 career goals against average, including a 1.86 GAA in 2008.

Dineen has seen action in 50 games including 47 starts at Willamette. He has registered three goals and four assists during his career. Last year, he led the team with four assists and was selected for Second Team All-Northwest Conference honors.

Lagattuta has seen action in 55 games with 50 starts over the past three years. He has been solid on defense and has contributed one goal and one assist. He will be a defensive midfielder this season and will continue to take most of Willamette's free kicks on the offensive half of the field.

Monbouquette returns to action after sitting out the 2008 season. He played in 12 games (4 starts) in 2006 and competed in five games in 2007. He has shown quality passing skills in the preseason and appears ready to make solid contributions this fall.

"The seniors all reported for the preseason in great shape and ready to go," Head Coach Nelson Larson said. "They are some of our most technically-skilled players, and because they play a number of positions, they will make us better in all phases of the game."

Erik Kaufman (So., F, Portland, OR/Grant HS), Willamette's leading scorer last season, also returns for the Bearcats. Kaufman scored six goals for 12 total points and was a threat to go one-on-one at full speed against opposing defenses. He was named Honorable Mention All-NWC.

Some of Willamette's top depth is at goalkeeper. Bennett has the most experience, but Bradley Eckerson (So., GK, Portland, OR/Cleveland HS) and Alfredo Zuniga (So., GK, Salem, OR/South Salem HS) have worked hard in the offseason and are providing a solid challenge for playing time. Eben Hellekson (Jr., GK, Honolulu, HI/University Laboratory School) saw action in five games last season.

The Bearcat roster features 11 freshmen, including several who will compete for playing time right away. The list of key newcomers includes Mike McGrew (MF/F, Portland, OR/Grant HS), Patrick Yagi (D, Sammamish, WA/Eastlake HS), Etienne Galbreath (D, Portland, OR/Grant HS), Timothy Ikehara-Martin (MF, Vancouver, WA/Heritage HS) and Loftin Langsdorf (D/MF, Vancouver, WA/Columbia River HS).

"This year's freshmen will help elevate our level of play as a result of their individual skills plus the depth they give our lineup," Larson said. "They have been successful with their high school and club teams and are working very well with our returning players."

Willamette finished the 2008 season with a 3-14-1 overall record, including 2-11-1 in the NWC (7th place). The Bearcats will be looking for more consistent and outstanding play this season as they put their senior leadership, depth and talent to work against NWC and non-conference opponents.

Midfielder Casey Dineen returns for his senior year. Last season, Dineen started 17 games and led WU with four assists.

Midfielder Casey Dineen returns for his senior year. Last season, Dineen started 17 games and led WU with four assists.