With huge fan support, men’s soccer became co-champions in the Nike Invitational tournament
By Taylor Tobin, Staff Writer email@example.com
In the 56th minute of the Pilots' first home game this season, senior Colin Anderson strategically placed a free kick into the box where his teammate, junior Steven Evans, was able to connect.
Evans drilled a header straight into the back of the net, just out of the CSU-Bakersfield goalkeeper's reach. This goal was the first of three attempts made by the Pilots last weekend that helped them to pull out the Nike Invitational championship shared with the University of Washington.
The Pilots were excited to be back on home turf after playing in California on Aug. 24 and Aug. 26 for the Cal-State Fullerton tournament.
At the Nike Invitational the Pilots won 2-1 against CSU-Bakersfield on Aug. 31, and tied 1-1 with Wisconsin on Sept. 2.
"The crowd was fantastic. They help us a lot when we're getting tired and [we] hear them cheering," Anderson said. "[We] want to play for them, win for them, because they're out here supporting [us]."
Evans, Offensive MVP of the invitational, two-time WCC Player of the Week and WCC Player of the Month also appreciated the fan base at the game.
"It was unreal tonight," Evans said. "I think that's the best we've ever had. [They] help us out a lot."
After falling behind 0-1 against CSU-Bakersfield in the first half, Evans took control of the game, scoring twice to win 2-1.
Evans was on point as he scored all game. The first was a header in the back of the net assisted by Anderson, and the second shot drilled in the upper left corner.
Anderson thought the first goal was crucial to securing the win.
"We were down one and we were on the doorstep of scoring and then we got it," Anderson said. "I knew if I played a good ball in that someone would get on the end of it, and luckily Stevie was there. I trust all my teammates, especially him."
Freshman forward Jaime Velasco added to the excitement of the game with a header that hit the crossbar after CSU-Bakersfield scored on a penalty kick in the first half to take a 1-0 lead over UP.
As the only freshman starter against CSU-Bakersfield, Velasco embraced the experience.
"Starting is a great feeling and it is a dream come true," Velasco said.
Velasco admitted that the large crowd was a worry at first, but he realized how great it was to have them there.
Not only did the players appreciate the fans, but head coach Bill Irwin, in his 10th year, also felt the support.
"It's tremendous. "It's great seeing all the students here tonight and making lots of noise," said Irwin. "It's great to play when there's an atmosphere and it helps the players.
Irwin noted that watching great soccer is something UP has that a majority of schools in this country do not. Irwin compared playing at Merlo to playing on the road last week, where the Pilots pulled out a 4-0 win against Cal State Fullerton.
"We were in Fullerton and there were three people and their dog at the game," said Irwin. "Here, there are a lot of people. It just makes the game better."
Although Irwin admits exaggeration on the lack of fans at Fullerton, he makes a point that Pilot fans are essential to a winning atmosphere for the team.
The Pilots stayed strong throughout the tournament, concluding with a draw against Wisconsin on Sept. 2.
Junior goalkeeper Justin Baarts made three saves in the game and senior Ricardo Carrillo connected for the Pilots in the 84th minute to tie the game against Wisconsin. Neither team was able to score even after two overtime periods and penalty kicks.
The men's soccer team will play at home against rival Gonzaga on Sept. 26.