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MSU Billings men enter 3-week homestand

Posted at 2:25 PM, Sep 26, 2018

(MSUB Athletics release)

BILLINGS – Beginning a three-week home stand on Thursday at Yellowjacket Field, the Montana State University Billings men’s soccer team continues Great Northwest Athletic Conference action.

MSUB is coming off a 2-1 road victory over Western Washington University last Saturday, as it picked up its first conference win of the year after a 4-0 defeat against No. 3 Simon Fraser University. Overall the ‘Jackets have won three of their last four matches, and hold a record of 4-4-1 overall and 1-1 in conference play.

“The win against Western Washington has given our team a lot of confidence,” said MSUB head coach Alex Balog. “The way we played – with passion, desire, quality, work rate, and courage – is what we want to see from our guys game-in and game-out. Something we as a coaching staff are particularly proud of is that at times we had seven new players on the field, which not only shows our depth but also that we brought guys in who can compete at this level right away. We need to build on that performance this week.”

MSUB begins its five-game home stand on Thursday against Seattle Pacific University (3-5, 0-2 GNAC), and will also host GNAC foe Northwest Nazarene University (1-5-1, 1-0 GNAC) on Saturday. The game against the Falcons is part of a doubleheader with the MSUB women’s soccer team, and will kick off at 3:30 p.m. Saturday’s game against the Nighthawks is scheduled for a 3 p.m. kickoff. Live video and live statistics will be available for all matches online through the MSUB Stretch Internet portal here.

“Seattle Pacific may not have the record to reflect it, but they are a quality team that will come here to try to get three points,” Balog said. “NNU comes off a quality win against SPU, and just like us they have a lot of new faces. Games against them have been very level over the past few years.”

The Yellowjackets host Western Washington University and Concordia University next week, before finishing the three-week stretch in Billings on October 11 against Saint Martin’s. The Yellowjackets’ two opponents this week squared off last Thursday in Nampa, Idaho, where NNU completed a 2-0 shutout to win its first GNAC game of the season.

“Playing at home will hopefully give us a slight advantage,” said Balog. “However, what will truly set the tone for the game on Saturday is the outcome of Thursday’s game against SPU. If we manage to get a result in there, we will be able to start against NNU with even more confidence.”

SHAFER STEPS UP IN THE CLUTCH: With the score tied 1-1 and time running down, freshman Austin Shafer elevated to score his second goal of the season and prevent the game against the Vikings from going to overtime. The Jamestown, North Dakota, native got his head on a cross after a corner-kick cross in the 84th minute, redirecting his first-ever game-winning goal into the corner of the net to give the ‘Jackets their 2-1 result.

Shafer has played in all nine games for the Yellowjackets, and has made the most of his few chances landing 3 of 6 shots on target.

PEREZ’ BIRTHDAY BANGER: On his 18th birthday, freshman forward Andres Perez not only made his first collegiate start, but put the ‘Jackets ahead in the 25th minute. Receiving a pass on the right side of the field near the corner of the box, Perez blasted an unstoppable, dipping strike into the far upper-corner of the net to make it 1-0. Like Shafer, it was Perez’ second goal of the season. He has been similarly efficient in the shooting department, placing four of his seven attempts on frame.

GK CONNECTING WITH FORWARDS: Notching an assist on each of the goals in the game against WWU was senior captain Guillaume Kremer, who upped his season total to five assists to rank fourth in the GNAC. It was Kremer’s third career multi-assist game, and he is now tied for No. 5 in MSUB history with 16 career assists. Kremer has had a goal or an assist in four of the last five matches, and played his fifth complete game of the year against the Vikings.

BEDROSIAN PERFORMING WELL IN STARTING ROLE: Returning from an injury last year and starting all nine games so far has been sophomore Shantik Bedrosian, who contributed his second assist of the year on Perez’ goal. Saturday marked his third performance of 90 or more minutes this season, and he ranks fourth on the team among field players with 647 minutes played and an average of 71.9 per game.

PISAREK’S RETURN BOOSTS BACK LINE: The ‘Jackets got a boost defensively last week when center back Pascal Pisarek returned to the lineup after missing four games with an injury. The German has been steady in his five starts this year next to Samuele Folla in the center of the defensive unit. His return also allowed sophomore captain Luca Battistotti to shift back to his natural position on the outside, and he has started all nine games and played a team-leading 800 minutes. Filling the role at the other outside back position has been junior Liam Knox, who has played a full 90 minutes in each of the last three matches.

RHODIN PASSES TEST IN WIN: Although he only had to make a pair of saves – his second-lowest total of the year – senior goalkeeper Ludvig Rhodin came through with crucial stops when the Vikings challenged him last Saturday. His performance in the win came after he saw a season-high 23 shots against Simon Fraser, as the Yellowjacket defense responded and held WWU to nine shots. It was the third time this season an opponent has been limited to single digits in shooting in a game. Entering this week, Rhodin is second in the GNAC with 38 total saves and an average of 4.75 per contest, and he trails Saint Martin’s University’s Griffin Small by just one save.

SHOOT OFTEN: The Yellowjackets enter the week with a GNAC-leading 128 shots, and their pace of 14.22 shots per game is the fourth-highest in the league. The ‘Jackets are among conference leaders in all offensive categories, ranking second in points (41), goals (14), and assists (13), while also holding the league’s third-best goals-against average at 1.49 per game. The Yellowjackets have an even margin overall with 14 goals scored and 14 conceded this season.

Seattle Pacific University Falcons
Thursday, September 27 – 3:30 PM – Yellowjacket Field
2018 Record: 3-5, 0-2 GNAC
Head Coach: Mark Collings, 11th season
2017 Record: 11-5-1, 7-4-1 GNAC (2nd place)

After a three-game winning streak to close non-conference play, Seattle Pacific dropped its first two matches of the GNAC season on the road last week. The Falcons fell 2-0 at the hands of NNU, before a 2-1 defeat in Portland, Oregon, against Concordia University.

Like MSUB, SPU holds an even goal margin at 13 scored and 13 conceded. Eight different players have found the net for SPU, with Alden Massey leading the way at four goals and two assists for 10 points. Titus Grant and Jake Ferry have each scored a pair of goals for the Falcons, and the former leads the squad with three assists.

Defensively, the core of Nik Reierson, Ed Weise, and Luke Postma have started all eight games and are the top three players in terms of minutes played. Jose Benavides has also been a major contributor with eight starts in the midfield unit. Goalkeepers Lars Helleren and Kary Whitney have split time between the posts, with the former making five starts and holding a goals-against average of 1.60. Each goalkeeper played one match last week.

The Series: MSUB is 5-17-5 all-time against SPU and is 3-4-2 in games played in Billings. Though the ‘Jackets have won two of the last three meetings, SPU did not lose in the series from 2009-2016 (11-0-4) and has been defeated just twice in the last 18 meetings overall.

Last Time Out: Each team won on the road last season by the score of 2-1, with SPU taking care of business on September 28, 2017 in Billings and the ‘Jackets responding with a win at Seattle on October 21, 2017. Kremer scored a penalty-kick goal in the road loss, before netting a free-kick goal in the home victory.

Northwest Nazarene University Nighthawks
Saturday, September 29 – 3 PM – Yellowjacket Field
2018 Record: 1-5-1, 1-0 GNAC
Head Coach: Joel DeLaas, 3rd season
2017 Record: 8-6-3, 5-4-3 GNAC (3rd)

NNU carries momentum from its first win of the year into this week, as it snapped a six-game winless streak including a three-match losing skid against the Falcons. The Nighthawks will play at Saint Martin’s University on Thursday before traveling to Billings for Saturday’s game against the ‘Jackets.

Reigning GNAC Player of the Week Rafael Junqueira scored both goals in the win over the Falcons, and is the team’s leader with three total scores on the season. The junior has a good history against the ‘Jackets, as he scored in last year’s match in Billings. Alex Mitrovic is close behind Junqueira with a pair of goals and an assist for five points, and he is 1 of 2 players to start all seven matches for third-year head coach Joel DeLaas. Sophomore defender Danny Cuevas has made six starts and ranks second on the team with 572 minutes, while fellow sophomore back Daniel Brendel is fourth on the team with 563 minutes played.

Like the Falcons, the Nighthawks have utilized a tandem of goalkeepers with Colin Andersen making three starts and veteran Jacob Hillyer making four starts. Hillyer got the nod in the GNAC opener, and made four saves against SPU to pick up his first shutout of the season last Thursday.

The Series: MSUB is 11-14-2 all-time against NNU and has a record of 3-5-2 in games played in Billings. The teams have split the last four contests, and NNU is 8-3-1 over the last 12 games dating back to the 2012 season.

Last Time Out: The ‘Jackets claimed a 3-2 win in Billings on September 21, 2017, before the ‘Hawks responded with a 3-2 win in Nampa, Idaho on October 14, 2017. Kremer scored a penalty kick in each game and also netted the game-winner in the home win.