Pilot Roundup: A mixed bag for UP athletics this past week

By Kyle Garcia | October 3, 2018 7:34pm
Junior Gio Magana-Rivera, lines up to take a free kick.
Media Credit: Elizabeth Lyons-Best / The Beacon

It was a little up and down this past week for the Pilots.

On one hand, soccer went 2-1, and Benji Michel won WCC Player of the Week. On the other hand, volleyball got swept in both their matches this weekend and dropped to 0-4 in conference play. But then on a third hand, cross country is still killing it and had two runners named WCC Runner of the Week.

Let’s break down what happened.

Talking soccer

Let’s start with the good. More accurately speaking, the best of UP right now.

Men’s soccer stays undefeated with a big win against Northern Illinois this past Friday. They go into conference play 8-0-2 with a 3-0 win against the Huskies, their best start since 1989. It’s also the longest they’ve gone undefeated since 1995, when they went 14-straight games without a loss. 

The Pilots never let the Huskies, who are ranked 20th according to Top Drawer Soccer and 16th in RPI according to the NCAA, get comfortable. They were dominant defensively, and the Huskies didn’t get a single shot on goal. Junior Benji Michel continued to dominate, getting a goal in the 11th minute, giving him nine goals through 10 games. He also earned player of the week honors for his performance. His nine goals have him tied for sixth in the nation for goals scored.

The team as a whole continues to garner recognition for their impressive performance. Top Drawer Soccer has them ranked as the seventh best team in the nation right now. They also jumped up to 10th in the latest NCAA RPI poll and 11th in the latest coaches poll.

Overall, the men’s team is continuing to dominate. They open WCC play this week with a game against Gonzaga, who currently sits at 2-6-2. There’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to take down Gonzaga with ease and, for the most part, continue to do so throughout conference play. They’re ranked significantly higher than the majority of the other WCC teams, and the conference as a whole only has three teams, including UP, above .500.

Right now the only WCC team close to them is the undefeated St. Mary’s Gaels, who is the last team they play in conference on Nov. 10. They are 11-0 right now and sit at ninth in the latest coaches poll. Otherwise there’s Pacific, the only other team above .500, but, after that, the talent level drops significantly. Portland should be able to just glide through conference play, and they might be looking to get their second conference championship in three years.

Women’s soccer split their weekend with a dominant win and a crushing loss. After beating San Diego 4-1 in large part thanks to a Taryn Ries hat trick, the Pilots lost in Provo against BYU with a score of 3-0.

The win against San Diego marked Michelle French’s first conference win as head coach of the Pilots. Along with Ries’s three goals, junior Kimberly Hazlett added a goal of her own second minute, setting the tone early for the game. It was a strong showing against a tough San Diego team.

They did not have a solid showing however when they played BYU two days later. The Cougars unleashed an offensive barrage in the second half that Portland just couldn’t stop. BYU got off 35 shots to UP’s seven. Senior goalkeeper Rachel Lusby did everything she could to protect the goal, notching seven saves for the match, but ultimately it was too much for them to handle. The Pilots would come home winless while the Cougars improved to 2-0 in conference play and 7-3-1 overall.

Although the loss to BYU is a tough pill to swallow, it isn’t the end of the world for the Pilots. An away game to San Diego followed up by a trip to Provo, Utah, is tough, especially when it means playing a tough team like BYU. Plus, Ries and Lusby continue to shine for the Pilots. Ries is tied for tenth in the nation in goals scored, while Lusby currently leads the conference in shutouts. Hazlett also continues to play well for the Pilots.

They’ve already got half the wins they did in conference play last year (it was a rough year), so it looks like the French Revolution is off to an okay start. This weekend would be the perfect chance for them to solidify themselves as serious contenders in the conference.

Volleyball drops to 0-4 in conference play

Alright, we’ve talked about the good. Now let’s talk about the bad.

Volleyball knew they had a tough road trip ahead of them going up against BYU and San Diego, the two teams that were tops in the conference last year. And after this weekend, it seems like those two teams are still poised to be extremely difficult to beat. 

The Pilots got swept 3-0 in both of their matches this week. That means volleyball drops to 0-4 in WCC play to start the year.

So far this season seems to be shaping up to be a lot like last year. The Pilots started off strong (their best start ever, actually, at 12-0), then they started conference play with some bad losses that affected their momentum, and things went downhill.

They’ve played a tough schedule so far in conference play, so there is a chance that they could bounce back. Santa Clara is last right now in the WCC and could be an easy win for the Pilots to pick up on Saturday. USF is also only 1-3 in conference play, and they play them on Thursday Oct. 4, so this weekend seems like UP’s best shot to get back on track.

Whether they can actually do this remains to be seen, but right now they’re in a tough spot. They need to do something to come away with a win this weekend.

Cross Country shines

Enough with the bad news — let’s move on to men’s and women’s cross country, who both performed well this weekend.

The men’s team finished third at the Nuttycombe Invite and second at the Charles Bowles Invite, while the women’s team finished 12th and fifth at the same events.

On top of this, both teams had runners earn some accolades. Redshirt seniors Nick Hauger and Lauren LaRocco both got WCC Runner of the Week for their performances.

Hauger finished the Nuttycombe Invite in sixth place with a time of 23:24 in the 8k. It was the fastest time of any runner in WCC history to ever run the Nuttycombe Invite. He’s the second pilot to win Runner of the Week after Said Guermali won it in September.

LaRocco finished 16th overall in the Nuttycombe Invite, crossing the finish line with a time of 20:04.4 in the 6k. She is the first Pilot to win WCC Runner of the Week for the women’s team.

Pilot cross country continues to thrive.

What’s up next?

Men’s soccer opens up conference play at Gonzaga this weekend. They’ll travel to Spokane, Washington to face off against the Bulldogs on Oct. 6 at 7 p.m.

Women’s soccer will stay at home and face off against Saint Mary’s and Pacific. They play the Gaels on Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. and the Tigers on Oct. 7 at 1 p.m.

Volleyball returns home to the Chiles Center to play against USF and Santa Clara, playing the Dons on Thursday Oct. 4 at 7 p.m. and the Broncos Saturday Oct. 6 at noon.

Cross country is off this week. They’ll run again on Oct. 13 at the Warner Pacific XC Classic in Portland.

Stay tuned for your next Pilot Roundup.

Kyle Garcia is the sports editor for The Beacon. He can be reached at garciaky20@up.edu.