By: Natalie Van Dyke/GCU Staff
Grand Canyon University Club Men’s Soccer sought out its first National Intermural and Recreational Sports Association Region VI South Tournament victory this weekend in San Luis Obispo, California, but for the second consecutive year, three straight losses deprived the Lopes the chance of playing past pool play.
After only being shut out twice in 12 matches during the regular season, the Lopes spent the weekend struggling mightily to find the back of the net. GCU kicked off the tournament Saturday morning against University of California, Santa Barbara, but couldn’t get the offense started in a 2-0 loss. That afternoon, after scoring five goals in two wins this year against Southwest Soccer Conference foe University of Arizona, the Lopes suffered their second straight 2-0 shutout loss at the hands of the Wildcats. Needing an upset victory Sunday to have any chance of advancing to elimination play, the Lopes avoided the shutout, but trailed the University of California-Davis throughout a 5-1 loss.
“We knew the game against Santa Barbara would likely determine our fate,” said Lopes Head Coach Lance Thompson. “Those four teams (UC Davis, UCSB, USD and Cal Poly) are well established programs, and are head and shoulders above everyone else. To our credit, we didn’t beat ourselves, but neither did they, and their athletic talents shone through.”
UC Davis and Santa Barbara continued on, but lost in the next round to the eventual tournament winners, the University of San Diego and Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, who are headed to the NIRSA National Championships next month in Texas.
The three losses stung a little bit for GCU, but that won’t stop the Lopes from acknowledging their successes this season. With a conference championship under their belt and a 7-5-3 season, Thompson had plenty of positives to point out about his team.
“Matt Pierce and Brandon Wishman were both big leaders for our team this year,” reflected Thompson. “They did a great job of helping this program execute the tactics we put into place, and they had a positive influence on their teammates.”
GCU Purple scored 24 goals in conference play with Sebastian Nolasco leading the way.
“Nolasco was a surprise talent up top,” said Thompson. “He puts in the work and follows our system. We were lucky to have him with us this year and to have him capitalize on big opportunities.”
With the Lopes’ defense racking up three shutouts on the season, and allowing just 13 goals, Thompson credits Lopes’ defender Jimmy Wilson for being an integral part of that defensive success.
“Wilson was our strength in the back,” said Thompson. “He is typically an outside back, so to be able to bring him to center back and have such a versatile player who is willing to step up is huge.”
With only one graduating senior, Thompson looks forward to developing this young team and setting their sights on a victorious regional tournament next year.
“We are meeting the standards of Arizona schools, and our results prove that, but a conference championship isn’t enough anymore,” said Thompson. “We worked hard to be at the top of our league, but it’s time to raise the bar again-especially with our strength, speed, and technical skills.”