Seattle Pacific University men’s soccer team went on the trip of a lifetime this summer, spending 15 days in Europe, from Aug. 2 to 17. They not only got the chance to see the different sights that countries like France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands had to offer, but they also had the opportunity to play soccer against international teams.
“We got to face a lot of good competition — really strong teams that have played a lot of soccer before,” said sophomore midfielder Aiden Chapparo.
They played four full-length matches against the Under 21 teams of Belgian and Dutch teams. They also played in a tournament with shorter games, where the Falcons faced off against teams from Belgium, the Netherlands, England and Denmark.
“We got six or seven games in Europe, so to get those games under our belts for the new guys and for all of us returners just kind of get the nerves out [and] get used to playing together,” said Falcon defender Travis Swallow.
These matches were especially helpful for the team, giving them an advantage on conference teams that didn’t start playing games until one month later.
“From the beginning to the end we were a different team, and I think from the beginning of the season to the end of the season we’ll be very different as well,” said Falcons head coach Mark Collings.
But this trip was not all about soccer.
Multiple players said they enjoyed being able to experience the new cultures around them. The team visited the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Anne Frank House in the Netherlands, and museums in these countries. All of the exploring they did gave players the opportunity to build relationships with their teammates.
“It was really interesting to see all the different cultures, all the different buildings too, because it’s just a completely different atmosphere than it is over here in the states,” said Forward Jake Ferry.
As the preseason began, the Falcons were trying to remove the bad taste in their mouths from a year ago.
They had four wins and three losses in conference play and were tied for second place in the conference with five games to go. The Falcons ended up losing all five and tied for sixth out of seven teams in the conference.
“I think the big thing for us is that we gave up too many goals last year,” Collings said. “It was tough because we felt like we were doing things right offensively and just couldn’t get the ball in the back of the net at times and we felt like we conceded some bad goals.”
In an effort to reduce the amount of goals given up, the Falcons decided to move Travis Swallow from the midfield position he played last year into the defensive lineup. He will play alongside Ed Weise and Nik Reierson — both of whom received Great Northwest Athletic Conference honorable mentions last year — as well as Alex Mejia and sophomore goalkeeper Lars Helleren.
This year, the Falcons brought in seven freshman players, as well as three transfers; there is only one senior on the team.
“We’re obviously a young team, but I don’t think many people know what we are capable of,” said sophomore goalkeeper Lars Helleren.
The team has completed three games so far this season and were winning a fourth before thunder and lightning made the game unplayable.
Sonoma State came to Seattle to open the season on Sept. 5, and the game ended in a 1-1 tie. Helleren kept the Seawolves off the scoreboard for 88 minutes, making six saves, but Sonoma midfielder Eduardo Rodriguez scored a goal off a corner kick with two minutes left.
This goal cancelled out one by Falcons Forward Mario Vukic, scored 54 seconds into the second half when Vukic received a pass from Alden Massey and was able to chip it over the onrushing keeper into the net.
In overtime, Helleren made four more saves to keep the Falcons tied, although the Falcons were also denied more opportunities to score.
Vukic’s goal in that game was the most recent one that the Falcons have scored this season, after being shut out in the next two games.
The Falcons hit the road to take on Colorado School of Mines Sept. 13 and fell 1-0. Helleren had another great performance, making 9 saves and only being beaten by one goal by Lucas King that deflected off an SPU player and into the net. The Falcons also had some good shot opportunities but couldn’t get the ball past Goalie Drew Johnson.
The Falcons then faced a tough test against sixth ranked West Texas A&M Sept. 16, losing 3-0.
Helleren was sidelined before the game with an injury, so Jordan Marwood made his first collegiate start and made 11 saves. The Falcons had more control early in the first half, before the Buffaloes regained control and put more pressure on the team — leading to the three goals they scored. One goal was scored in the first half by Stefan Andjelic, and two were scored later in the second half three minutes apart by Jean-Luc Ramdin and Francesco D’Aulerio.
Next up, the Falcons will be in action back at Interbay Stadium for the next six games. They will begin by facing Point Loma Nazarene University Thursday, Sept. 26 and Azusa Pacific University Saturday, Sept. 28. Then they will open up their conference season against Western Washington Oct. 3 and Simon Fraser Oct. 5.
Even with a rough start to the season, the Falcons have time to turn it around and are confident that they will.
“I think we have a really good team and a really good shot at doing something really special this year,” said midfielder Sam Malloch.