Bearcats are Ready to Start the Men's Soccer Season for 2010

Willamette Takes on Nearby Rival Corban on Sept. 1 at 7 p.m.

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

SALEM, ORE. -- A strong finish a year ago, paired with a second consecutive talented recruiting class, has the Willamette University men's soccer team looking forward to the start of the 2010 season. The schedule gets underway with three games in five days, starting on Wednesday, Sept. 1, when the Bearcats will host crosstown rival Corban University at 7 p.m. (PDT).

The match against Corban opens a three-game home stand for the Bearcats at Sparks Field. Willamette will take on Colorado College on Friday, Sept. 3 at 7 p.m. (PDT) and will face Bethel University (Minn.) on Sunday, Sept. 5 at 5 p.m.

In addition to Willamette's games, Sparks Field also will be the site for two other college men's soccer games this week. On Saturday, Whitman College will play Bethel at 4:30 p.m. (PDT). Whitman will battle Colorado College on Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

Last year, the Bearcats went 3-3 in their final six games to move into fifth place in the Northwest Conference. The Bearcats finished the season with a 6-13 overall record, including 5-9 in the NWC. Five of WU's losses were by a single goal, including four 1-0 defeats early in the season.

Willamette's roster featured 11 freshmen a year ago. It was one of WU's top recruiting classes in recent years, but it took a while for the newcomers to adapt to the college game. Eventually, the offense started to click and the Bearcats scored 22 goals in their final 14 games.

This year, there are 10 freshmen and nine sophomores on the 27-man roster. The team is still young, but the Bearcats are bolstered by a significant level of overall talent and the return of three seniors and five juniors.

Leading the way is senior goalkeeper Eben Hellekson (Honolulu, HI/University Laboratory School). He played a team-high 700 minutes and earned a 4-5 record last season. Hellekson is very athletic and can make difficult saves. He registered 39 saves in 2009, while tying Mark Bennett for the team lead with eight starts in goal.

Bradley Eckerson (Jr., Portland, OR/Cleveland HS) and Alfredo Zuniga (Jr., Salem, OR/South Salem HS) also return in goal. Eckerson registered a goals against average of 0.95 and played 190 minutes last year, but will miss at least a portion of the 2010 season due to a hand injury. Zuniga claimed a 1-1 record last season in 180 minutes played.

Erik Kaufman (F, Portland, OR/Grant HS), who led the Bearcats in scoring with nine goals and two assists for 20 points as a sophomore last fall, injured his knee during the spring. He will likely miss the entire 2010 season.

In addition, Willamette's second-leading and third-leading scorers from 2009 have graduated, so a new group of Bearcats will be called upon to lead the attack. There are several players who appear ready to shoulder the scoring load.

Loftin Langsdorf (So., D/MF, Vancouver, WA/Columbia River HS) showed an ability to get forward, especially as a player on the wing. He scored two goals and was a significant contributor to moving the ball through the midfield. Timothy Ikehara-Martin (So., MF, Vancouver, WA/Heritage HS) also played a key role in the midfield a year ago and provided a solid work rate, while earning one assist.

Mike McGrew (So., MF, Portland, OR/Grant HS) supplied additional technical skill in the midfield and was difficult to mark as he took the ball into the offensive third. He also was a key threat to head the ball on set-pieces.

The key factor linking Langsdorf, Ikehara-Martin and McGrew is the experience they gained as freshmen a season ago. Langsdorf saw action in all 19 games with 13 starts. Ikehara-Martin and McGrew each played in 16 games, including 11 starts for Ikehara-Martin and eight starts for McGrew.

Willamette's offensive success during the final two-thirds of the 2009 season was aided by the ability of defenders to get into the attack at critical moments. Many of the defenders are back this year.

Pete Kline (Sr., D, Cheyenne, WY/Cheyenne Central HS) led the Bearcats with five assists. Etienne Galbreath (So., D, Portland, OR/Grant HS) added two goals and three assists, while Brendan Dineen (Jr., D, Portland, OR/Grant HS) scored twice and earned one assist. Patrick Yagi (So., D, Sammamish, WA/Eastlake HS) tacked on one assist for the Bearcats.

Those defenders and returning player Tom Farr (Jr., D, Seattle, WA/Ballard HS) provided solid efforts on the back line. They have gained quality experience and will now lead the team on the defensive half of the field.

Head Coach Nelson Larson begins his fifth season guiding the Bearcats. Larson hopes this year's group of freshmen will be able to make similar contributions to last year's freshman class as they prepare for non-conference and NWC action.

Loftin  Langsdorf played in all 19 games and scored two goals as a freshman last year.

Loftin Langsdorf played in all 19 games and scored two goals as a freshman last year.