Tuesday, Aug. 28 was a pretty good day for the Washington men’s soccer team. Fresh off a win the previous night against New Mexico to go to 2-0, the Huskies climbed 21 spots in the United Soccer Coaches Poll from No. 24 to No. 3. This is the highest the UW has been in the rankings since 2013, when it earned the No. 2 spot in the final regular season poll.
The team will put that ranking to the test as it takes on new No. 19 Denver Thursday and Gonzaga the following Monday.
Washington has started its season off with a pair of 2-0 wins against Maryland and UNM, with redshirt senior forwards Scott Menzies and Kyle Coffee recording goals in each of the first two games. Junior midfielders Joey Parish and Jaret Townsend each have two assists on the season, and redshirt junior goalkeeper Saif Kerawala has three saves and two shutouts.
“He’s back,” head coach Jamie Clark said of Kerawala. “He’s talking, he’s commanding his box. That was the Saif at the beginning of last season before he hurt his back.”
Clark knew this year’s slate of games was going to be among the toughest in the nation this season, and so far his team has answered the call and played exceptional soccer.
“We had a lot of faith in these guys when we made the schedule, and we made the schedule to push them,” Clark said. “I believe they’ll rise up to every challenge. It doesn’t mean we’ll win every game, but we’ll be a lot better for it in the long run.”
The Huskies have been dominant in every facet of the game so far this year, but their next opponent has built up an impressive resume over the years, and will be looking to add an upset to it Thursday.
Denver has established itself as one of the premier programs in men’s soccer, and in 2016 the team went to the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament, defeating Washington in the Round of 16 along the way. Last year, however, the Pioneers failed to make the tournament, going 11-6-2 and losing to Omaha in the Summit League Tournament final.
They’ve only played one official game so far this year, a 4-0 victory against Monmouth. That game saw senior striker Andre Shinyashiki tie Denver’s Division I single-game record for points, as he netted a hat trick within the game’s first 26 minutes and assisted on the fourth goal. Shinyashiki was one of the most lethal attackers in college soccer last year, scoring a team-high nine goals and was tied for the team lead in assists with four. He won the Summit League Offensive Player of the Year Award and made Summit League First Team.
Fellow senior co-captain Scott Devoss holds down the back end for Denver. The defender was awarded the Summit League Defensive Player of the Year Award and made Summit League First Team along with Shinyashiki.
Game No. 4 of the season for the UW will be a rematch of last year’s matchup with Gonzaga, where the Huskies handled the Bulldogs in a 3-0 win, with Scott Menzies and Quentin Pearson each scoring goals.
The Zags are led by first-year head coach Paul Meehan. Gonzaga will have to depend on redshirt senior goalkeeper Ben Willis, an All-WCC Honorable Mention, to hold down the fort on the back end, and sophomore midfielder Joe Corner, a conference All-Freshman team selection last year, to make some things happen in the middle third.
Washington’s matchup with Denver will begin Thursday at 6 p.m., and the game against Gonzaga will be the following Monday at 7 p.m.
Reach reporter Chris Angkico at email@example.com. Twitter: @chrisangkico