Gonzaga men’s soccer is back in action this fall with a new assistant coach and a variety of new players, hoping to build upon its efforts from last season.
Alongside head coach Paul Meehan is the new assistant coach Aaron Lewis, who hails from Corban University in Salem, Oregon. Lewis was the head coach for six seasons there before making the transition to GU.
In addition to a new assistant coach, there are six new players to look out for this season, from a variety of amateur club programs. Among them is Michael Ambrose from Omaha FC in Nebraska, Cam Bain from the Westside Timbers in Oregon, Kupa’a Fernandez from Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Minnesota, Shaun Matney from Albion SC in San Diego and Cole Rovegno of Sacramento Republic FC.
Despite a 2-14-2 record last year, Meehan’s team is working toward focusing on this upcoming season. Garrett Wilson, a redshirt senior defender, is optimistic for this season and excited for what lies ahead.
“Last year was a struggle for sure. We can't ignore the results,” Wilson said. “We're just kind of putting that in the past and focusing on switching it around 180-degrees.”
Wilson and his team are determined to make this season great through hard work and improved camaraderie.
Wilson says that getting to know each other better is another way to move forward. The team holds bonding days and student-led practices where the team really gets to know each other and create the vital team chemistry that leads to success. Wilson said this helps bring in new players and make them feel at home.
“You're going to spend so many minutes with them and there’s more support which makes better performance,” Wilson said. “I mean, the second I stepped on campus I felt like I was at home with all the guys.”
Roster turnover occurs every year, which leads to unique team dynamics each fall. This year, the team is fairly young, with 16 underclassmen on the roster.
The upperclassmen, like Wilson, said that while this team is young, they are determined to make this season great and are working hard to get there.
“Everybody is very determined,” Wilson said. “We're on the same page about moving forward and growing, which I think is going to be unique and play to our advantage.”
This year, Wilson and his teammates are set to face difficult foes both in and out of conference, including two rival teams in St. Mary’s and the University of Portland.
Wilson said they set a goal to play in the West Coast Conference tournament. In order to achieve that goal, it is crucial to perform well in those tougher matchups.
“There's going to be like two really, really big conference games for us that kind of define our season,” Wilson said. “They're always very good and so we're going to try and match them this year.”
So far, the Zags have played Air Force, Denver University and University of Washington in exhibition games. The first game of the regular season will be against Tulsa on Friday at 5:30 p.m. in Oklahoma.
Heading into his final year, Wilson wants to continue to inspire the rest of the team that he will leave behind next year. He hopes to instill the hope he has for the program into the younger players.
“I want to just enjoy this last year and try and instill a feeling of hope in this program,” he said. “The hope of moving forward.”