Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Gonzaga men upset 13th-ranked Oregon State 2-1

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For the second time in three days, there was plenty to celebrate at Luger Field as the Gonzaga men followed the ladies' 2-2 draw against 25th-ranked Washington with a surprising 2-1 victory against the 13th-ranked Oregon State Beavers.

Just like the lady Zags, the Bulldogs grabbed a two-goal lead, but the strikes from Christo Michaelson and Jakob Granlund in the first 27 minutes were not the story of the day. Facing a squad with a bevy of attacking options, the Bulldog defense limited the Beavers to just six shots in the match and only one of them on goal.

"We were pretty tough shutting them down," said Gonzaga Head Coach Einar Thorarinsson. "We tried not to give up anything behind us because they are strong going to goal. Obviously, they are good in the air too so we were trying to shut down their outside flank, and the space behind us. They have a lot of attacking options - they are a good team."

Part of that effort was Icelandic junior defender David Sigurdsson, who was consistently winning challenges on the ground and in the air against a taller group of Beaver attackers.

"He's a guy that's a bulldog. He has to go and win the battles, and he does," Thorarinsson said of Sigurdsson. "Garrett Wilson is getting there. Obviously he's just a freshman and he's kinda finding his way, but Sigurdsson is the guy in the back that we rely on right now."

With the defense keeping the Oregon State attack, which included local product Timmy Mueller (Post Falls, ID), the Bulldogs finally found some offense, scoring two goals in a game for the first time this season through eight games.

They stunned the Beavers just four minutes into the match when Christo Michaelson took advantage an unforced turnover. Goalkeeper Nolan Wirth came forward to volley a clearance away, but the ball came directly to Michaelson, who immediately sent the ball back to the open goal from about 40 yards. Wirth nearly made the full recovery on the play, but the ball dropped in under the bar and over his outstretched hands for the opener.

Wirth found himself out of position again in the 27th minute when a long ball out of the back from Conner Bevans put Granlund on a run to goal.

Coming in from the outer right corner of the box with a defender on his shoulder, the striker lifted the ball off the bounce from about 14 yards over Wirth, who was caught in no man's land midway between goal and the two players. It bounced a few feet in front of the line and into goal for an unexpected two-goal advantage.

"We had been talking about it since our last loss," Thorarinsson said of coming out with more confidence and scoring. "We just have to come out stronger. Will we do that every game? I will do my best to get the guys going so we can do that, but you never know. Today we did."

At the other end, Chris Lowrimore had an excellent outing managing the game. The only shot the Beavers had on frame was their goal in the 55th minute when a turnover at midfield led to a quick counter. Two swift passes up the right side led to Jordan Jones, who dribbled around the challenging Lowrimore to finished into the empty net.

"Chris had a good game, obviously. Didn't have to do a whole lot but he came up big a couple times. His leadership back there is good too - that's why he's in goal."

Despite a lot of attacking pressure from the Beavers, the Bulldogs held on for the final half-hour and change to record their first victory over a nationally-ranked team in two years (2-0 v #21 Wisconson in 2013).

Oregon State was also the highest ranked team Gonzaga has beaten since surprising top-ranked UC Santa Barbara in 2007.

"They held on. I was contemplating subbing some players with 20 minutes left, but I went with they guys that were in and they held on, did a great job."

-- INWsn --