Friday, August 23, 2013

Whitworth snares 1-1 draw in exhibition at Gonzaga in Cathey coaching debut

Photos: Gerald Barnhart - GALLERY
In a preseason exhibition, local universities Gonzaga and Whitworth squared off in a friendly that finished 1-1 Thursday evening with goals from Conner Bevans for the Bulldogs and Sam Selisch for the Pirates. The result against the Division I Zags was a great start under coach Morgan Cathey, who was making his collegiate head coaching debut.

Selisch heads to celebrate with bench
"The result doesn't really matter to us. It was preseason and, to be fair, it really doesn't matter to us any time; we just want to control the game and play the game we aim to play, which I thought we did today so that was good," said Cathey.

Don't tell that to the Division III Pirate players though. When Sam Engle beat his defender in the far left corner, drove to the edge of the area and delivered the ball to Selisch for the one-time finish from about 12 yards out to tie it up just before the hour mark, the bench erupted from their seats in celebration.

The game started out as a slow methodical affair as both teams, both in their first week back together on the field, felt one another out and tried to work on possession-based fundamentals, prodding the opposition for space as they moved the ball into the final third.

"I think for us, a preseason match for us, it was very much just about ourselves and how we wanna play. We've only been in camp three days so we obviously couldn't touch on every part of the game or every phase of the game. But, for us it was really looking at what we've been working on in the first three days and how we can do that well, which is very much how we build in phase one to phase four in the game. I thought our guys really did well there throughout the game and really, for us, did good things against their pressure.

Gonzaga was first to break through in the contest when a ball from Nate Pacheco in the midfield popped over to the right side where an open Bevans (pictured top left) took the ball in stride against a high Whitworth back line and drove nearly 30 yards to the box before slipping it narrowly inside the far post just out of goalkeeper Shane Nishioka-Healy's reach from about 17 yards out.

Aside from the one error, the Pirates stood firm on the day with several good saves from Nishioka-Healy, holding on for the 1-1 draw despite being outshot 17-1 on the day as they just did not quite have enough left in the tank to continually press the attack at the other end after playing a scrimmage earlier in the day.

"They tried to press us and I thought we played out in the right way and we got ourselves into good positions and committing numbers forward, but just from there I think there was a little bit of a breakdown. It could be it was the second game of the day for us [having scrimmaged CC Spokane mid-morning] and again we've been in camp three days, they've been in camp seven days. They haven't played a game, they didn't play a game today so I think maybe it was the fitness level and when you're physically fatigued, I think you're mentally fatigued as well. So, I think just our ability to make good decisions in the final third was kinda the downfall for us today. But everything we have been working on, the guys did really, really well so I was extremely pleased with that."

Cathey shakes hands with starters prior to kickoff
For Cathey, you probably could not have asked for a better first day of on-field competition as a collegiate head coach. They kicked the day off with a scrimmage against the Community Colleges of Spokane, an NWAACC playoff side a year ago, with a 4-1 win before visiting Gonzaga late in the day.

"It was my first game as a collegiate head coach, it was good. I think the guys responded well, they've been responding well to the things, the small things I've been implementing," said Cathey. "Obviously, I am taking over for an extremely talented, gifted head coach [Sean Bushey] that him and I have very similar philosophies, very similar views on the game and obviously the team and so its just little new concepts for the guys.

"I could probably just come out here and just sit, and they'd probably still go out and get a good result.

"The boys here, it is just a pleasure to coach. they are extremely intelligent; anything you throw at them they just eat up and they can tangibly make the change on the field while they are playing, which is incredible. I've never coached a team that has such an ability to mentally adapt to the game and to change and to just be intelligent players on the field, and take the emotion out of it. The guys are very, very good guys and very, very capable players so hats off to them; they make my life very, very easy.
The former four-year starting goalkeeper for Azusa Pacific University (DII) was the top assistant at CSU-Stanislaus (DII) the past two years (23-11-5) after a brief career playing and coaching abroad.

Morgan Cathey
"I think there are a lot of other programs that I could have come into in my first head coaching gig in collegiate soccer and it would have been a situation where you're righting the ship or reinventing the wheel and its not the case here. The wheel's already been in motion and it's just about picking up where they left off and trying to improve on a couple things.

"I think we'll get there and our aim always is to win the NWC and I think we've got now almost a month before that starts so this is just kind of step one. We've got a month of hard work and dedication - these guys are gonna improve dramatically over the next month. So, I'm thrilled at the start, at the base, and I'm absolutely beside myself in excitement at what's gonna happen in the next few weeks."

Match Highlights