Nick Ulowetz has always been a defender.
He played defense in youth soccer, in high school, and walked onto the Gonzaga soccer team as a defender three years ago.
But in GU’s 3-2 overtime victory over San Diego on Friday night, Ulowetz was front and center, scoring all three of the Bulldogs’ goals at Luger Field.
“He is just one of those kids that just does not stop,” head coach Einar Thorarinsson said. “He’s good in the air, so he wins a lot of headers. The kid is just hungry, he wants to play and he wants to score goals.”
That skill set is what caused Thorarinsson to shift Ulowetz into a forward position. The redshirt junior has appeared in multiple games up front, and frequently plays forward in practice, but he is listed on GU’s roster as a defender.
“I’m a defender through and through,” he said with a laugh.
But against San Diego, Nick Ulowetz the defender was gone, and Nick Ulowetz the forward came to play.
The Zags found themselves in a 2-0 hole with 21:51 gone by in the first half, when Jakob Granlund placed a perfect cross in front of the goal, and connected with Ulowetz who headed it into the net.
From there, GU took control and Ulowetz found his groove. He scored another goal in regulation, once more on a cross from Granlund, and then finished off USD a minute and 30 seconds into overtime.
“A couple times this season we have been down like that, and we didn’t come back from it,” Ulowetz said. “We were sick of it.”
The Zags lost 3-1 to Washington on Oct. 21 after allowing the Huskies to score three straight goals, and in similar fashion in a 5-1 loss against Portland two weeks ago. “They showed resilience coming back from those two goals, because there have been three games in our last eight games where we have given up back-to-back goals and just fallen apart,” Thorarinsson said. “We have been talking about that all week too, not hanging your head, and to keep fighting.”
Friday night it paid off, as GU erased USD’s 2-goal lead to get the victory.
“Being up 2-0 is a dangerous lead in soccer, it really is,” Thorarinsson said with a smile. ”Because once you get that one goal all the momentum changes.”
Once the Zags got their first goal, and snatched the momentum they settled in and began to take charge in the midfield. The muddy field conditions made a ground game more difficult, so the Zags had to rely on winning, and controlling balls out of the air.
“Well with the field being as it was, we knew what was going to happen today,” Ulowetz said. “We knew it was going to be a muddy, muddy game. We knew we were going to have to go above and beyond and we absolutely did that.”
The win improves GU’s record to 8-6-1 and 2-2 in the West Coast Conference. Next up the Zags take on Loyola Marymount, Sunday at Luger Field.
Eden Laase is a sports editor of the Gonzaga Bulletin, and the men's soccer beat writer. Find her on Twitter @eden_laase.