How is Washington first in the Pac-12 right now?
With a perfect 6-0-2 record, No. 24 Washington has enjoyed the top of the conference standings over No. 7 UCLA by sticking to the oldest adage in the book: defense wins championships.
In 17 matches, the Huskies allowed only 14 goals and eight shutouts. Despite lacking a reliable scorer or offensive playmaker, Washington has found success in its stonewall defense.
There are two stats that highlight the importance of the Huskies’ defense. First, the only Washington player in the Pac-12’s top ten in goals scored is defender Dylan Tucker-Gangnes with seven goals. The next leading goalscorer in the Huskies’ roster only has three goals.
Second, goalkeeper Spencer Richey has recorded only 3.41 saves per game, the second-lowest number in the conference. It’s nearly a whole save per game less than Cal goalie Kevin Peach. Thanks to the stalwart defense in front, Richey has less work to do as goalkeeper.
The Huskies’ backline has been the backbone of the team’s Cinderella run. It has shut down opposing attackers and even produced some goals. If the Washington defense can hold on for two more games to finish the Pac-12 season undefeated, it would celebrate its first conference title since 2000.
Who should win the Pac-12 Athlete of the Year?
There are several candidates who make valid arguments for the award.
There is UCLA’s golden boy Ryan Hollingshead, who leads the conference with eight assists. Washington defender Dylan Tucker-Gangnes deserves a mention as the leader of the Pac-12’s best defensive unit. Heck, even Cal’s Tony Salciccia gets a nod of acknowledgment.
But the trophy must go to Oregon State forward Emery Welshman, who leads the conference with 10 goals. The senior from Canada has been heart of the Beavers’ offense, scoring nearly a third of the team’s total goals. He has also contributed four assists to a roster that has scored 32 goals this season.
Welshman’s contributions have not led to wins on the standings. Oregon State has so far won only one out of its 10 conference matches, placing fifth in a six-team Pac-12 conference.
But whenever possible, Welshman has been the winning difference for the Beavers. He scored the lone goals against UC Irvine in double overtime and against San Diego State to carry Oregon State to victory. He leads the Pac-12 in game-winners with four goals.
Welshman has been the most complete offensive weapon in the conference. While the three aforementioned players make a case, Welshman have etched his name onto the trophy a long time ago.
Seung Y. Lee covers men’s soccer. Contact him at [email protected]
Comments should remain on topic, concerning the article or blog post to which they are connected. Brevity is encouraged. Posting under a pseudonym is discouraged, but permitted. The Daily Cal encourages readers to voice their opinions respectfully in regard to the readers, writers and contributors of The Daily Californian. Comments are not pre-moderated, but may be removed if deemed to be in violation of this policy. Click here to read the full comment policy.