A tumultuous season for Gonzaga men's soccer ended on a high note, as the Zags knocked off University of the Pacific University 2-0 and finish with a .500 record in conference play.
Junior midfielder Theo O’Malley carried the offense by notching a pair of goals while Stockton, California, product Johan Garibay held Pacific scoreless to register his second shutout of the season. The result lifted the Zags to third in the West Coast Conference with a final record of 4-10-2, going 3-3-1 in the WCC. This is the Bulldogs’ highest conference finish since 2013.
“I expected it to be a solid season as we had a lot of returning guys,” head coach Paul Meehan said. “I felt we had a team that could challenge for the conference title.”
Meehan finished his second year at the helm after multiple seasons as an assistant. Along with a change in tactics and a new assistant coach in Aaron Lewis, O'Malley said the team also benefited from having more upperclassmen on the roster than in recent years.
“Aaron [Lewis’] influence helped out team morale and boosted our confidence," O'Malley said.
O’Malley’s two goals against Pacific was in character, as he paced the Zags with four goals this season, despite only having scored twice in his previous two seasons combined.
“This past year, one of my goals was to score more,” O’Malley said. “Growing up, I used to score a lot and I was fortunate to be put in good spots by the team.”
Garibay’s homecoming shutout was the final chapter of his first healthy season for the team, as his missed the previous year due to injury. He was named to the All-WCC Honorable Mention list and All-WCC freshmen team.
“It was a nice little phone call when I told my mom about it,” Garibay said. “I couldn’t have done it without the other 29 guys in the locker room and on the coaching staff. They get as much credit to it as I do.”
The 2019 campaign proved to be a concrete step forward for the squad, but now it faces roster turnover. The Zags graduate six seniors who logged heavy minutes this year. Meehan said there are big shoes to fill but is confident in his upcoming recruiting class.
“Recruiting is going well," Meehan said. "The 2020 class might be the best I’ve had in my time here."
The team is not satisfied with a third
place WCC finish and has set high goals for next fall.
“As of right now, I think a good and realistic goal would be to win conference,” O’Malley said.
Meehan’s sees substantial progress in the program.
“This season, we doubled our wins and cut our RPI in half, and I believe we can do both again and move further along,” Meehan said. “Ultimately, I think the goal should be to win conference and get to the NCAA Tournament.”