Women's Soccer Opens Season Friday

Aug. 10, 2017

SPOKANE, Wash. -- The Gonzaga women's soccer team starts their 2017 season with an exhibition match against Mount Royal (Alta.) at Luger Field Friday.

Chris Watkins will debut as the Zags' head coach and several new faces will play their first games in GU uniforms. The Bulldogs return 18 letterwinners, including seven starters, from last season's squad.

"We're looking forward to playing so many games at home this season," Watkins said. "We have 12 games at home, with seven against teams that played in the NCAA Tournament last year. We're excited to get the season started."

Thirteen of Gonzaga's 27 players on the roster are underclassmen, including five freshmen. Isabel Jones (Utah) and Drew Williams (East Carolina) are both transfers and will be in the net for the Zags. Callie Best and Ariana Pumpelly both return after starting all 18 games last season, while Jodi Ulkekul and Madeline Gotta also return after appearing in all 18 games in 2016. Gotta was named honorable mention All-West Coast Conference and to the league's All-Freshman Team.

"There's definitely a lot of new faces on the roster this year," Ulkekul said. "Coach has done a great job implementing all the newcomers in and making sure we're all getting a lot of training and a lot of minutes. I'm looking forward to playing with these girls this season. We've been through a lot together and now we're in a position to be the best we can be, and it's really exciting to see the potential that we have."

Ulkekul, Taylor Kernion and Mari Kneisel all found the back of the net twice last year. Kernion added a trio of assists and finished the season with seven points, the third-best total on the team.

"I feel like the group is coming together really well," Pumpelly said. "We're all committed and we all want to work hard. I'm looking forward to playing games with everyone. We've worked really hard since the spring, when we went undefeated."

Sarah Swanson made 30 saves in 15 matches. Alison Seifert is also back for GU this year, and she made 16 saves in six appearances.

The Zags were slated eighth in the West Coast Conference Preseason Poll, in a tie with Saint Mary's. The league's coaches' gave GU 24 points in the annual poll. Santa Clara edged out BYU for the top spot with 76 points, compared to BYU's 75. Both teams received five first place votes. Both programs had a pair of players on the WCC All-Preseason Team, while Loyola Marymount had four.

Mount Royal (Calgary, Alta.) is also playing in its season-opener, and the game is an exhibition for the Cougars as well. Tino Fusco returns for his ninth season as head coach. Mount Royal went 4-6-4 last year, playing in the Canada West Universities Athletic Association.

Carly Neis led Mount Royal with three goals last season and she returns in 2017. Emily Sands is back after scoring two goals and recording an assist. Cailyn Leeson is in the Cougar net, after stopping 41 shots with a 71.9 save percentage last year.

Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday. Admission is free for the match. Live stats will be available on GoZags.com.

Team (First Place Vote) Pts.
1. Santa Clara  (5)  76
2. BYU  (5)  75
3. Pepperdine  68
4. Loyola Marymount  57
5. Portland   46
6. San Francisco 38
7. San Diego 33
T8. Gonzaga 24
T8. Saint Mary's 24
10. Pacific 9
Name Institution Yr. Pos.
Gudrun Arnardottir Santa Clara Soph. D
Sarina Bolden Loyola Marymount Jr. F/M
Hannah Diaz Saint Mary’s Sr. F
Nadia Gomes Brigham Young Sr. F
Kim Hazlett Portland Soph. F
Taylor Isom Brigham Young Sr. D
Maddie Medved Loyola Marymount Sr. M
Kellie Peay Santa Clara Sr. D
Charlee Pruitt Loyola Marymount R-Jr. GK
Gabbie Sanfilippo Loyola Marymount Jr. D
Bri Visalli Pepperdine Sr. M



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