Men’s soccer notches playoff spot

Despite a disappointing start to the season, the Clan won their last six games and now find themselves in the playoffs.

On Saturday night, in their last regular season game, the Clan faced the Western Washington Vikings, who came in with a 9-7-1 overall record. This was an important game for the Clan, as a victory would almost assure their continuing on to the nationals.

In the first half, SFU came out intending to play the ball wide and create scoring chances. The Clan’s game plan from the outset was clear: play the ball wide and cross it into the box; force the back four of Western Washington to be sharp at all times.

Despite this, the Vikings proved extremely difficult to break down, which resulted in few chances at either end of the pitch. The lone exception of the first half occurred when Clan midfielder Ryan Dhillon was sent in on a partial break in the 28th minute, only to be stopped by the sprawling right leg of the Vikings keeper. The half ended in a scoreless draw.

In the second half, however, the Clan really pushed the pace and got the goal they were desperate for from leading Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) scorer Jovan Blagojevic. Off a turnover, Blagojevic calmly buried the ball, which sent both the crowd on hand and the bench into a frenzy. It was a terrific campaign for the Coquitlam product, who finished the season with 18 goals in 17 games.

The Clan almost scored right after as well, as midfielder Nico Espinosa had a great individual effort to get a shot off, only to be stopped by the Vikings keeper.

The second goal of the evening came from Dhillon, who picked up the ball after a botched goal kick and shot it into the bottom left corner, giving the Clan some breathing room for the rest of the game.

“To be honest, we were playing very nervous in the first half, and I think Western Washington were playing very nervous too,” said head coach Alan Koch. “Obviously this game had big postseason implications for both teams. I told the team to just relax, go out and play, do what you’ve been doing the last few weeks, and they did in the second half, which was great.”

With the win, the Clan earned a spot in the Division II playoffs; they will face the Northwest Nazarene Crusaders on Thursday, against whom they split the season series. The winner will go on to face Seattle Pacific University on Saturday.