Timbers U-23s Notebook: Clark Phillips aiding in Gonzaga’s turnaround season
PORTLAND, Ore. – The Gonzaga University men’s soccer team is determined to defy preseason expectations. Gonzaga was selected to finish last in the West Coast Conference in a preseason coaches’ poll for a third straight year, but Timbers U-23s forward Clark Phillips has helped spark a turnaround season in 2013 that has the Bulldogs in conversations for a bid in the NCAA tournament.
“Our season has been quite a turnaround from the past two years,” said Phillips. “Instead, we have a winning record, are jockeying for first place and have made some pretty big noise in the collegiate polls this year. It has been a big culture change.”
Phillips, a junior, has helped Gonzaga to a 9-5-3 record (4-3-3 in WCC play). The team’s win total in 2013 equals the two previous seasons combined. The Portland native leads the team in scoring for a third straight season with seven goals, which ranks third in the conference. Phillips is also integrating successful habits from his time with the Timbers U-23s into the daily routine at Gonzaga.
“What I’ve tried to bring back from the Timbers to my team at Gonzaga is a work ethic that is relentless each day at training, trying to make myself and the team better,” said Phillips. “The Timbers U-23s really has given me a confidence boost because I know I can play with the best, impose my game and be effective. So I’ve tried to bring that intensity and confidence into [my play in] the WCC.”
The Bulldogs currently sit in third place in the WCC standings, but rank No. 21 nationally in the NCAA’s RPI poll, a big determinant in potential tournament seeding. Big wins over No. 10-ranked UC Santa Barbara and No. 13-ranked Wisconsin, and two over conference-leading Loyola Marymount University, have put Gonzaga in consideration for a berth in the NCAA tournament.
“I love the attention the team is drawing this year,” said Phillips. “We are always going to be underdogs at heart, but it's great to have this much excitement around campus about the soccer team. I think that if we were to make a slot in the playoffs we would make some heads turn, that is the only thing on our minds right now.”
Gonzaga is approaching its last homestand of the regular season in Spokane, Wash., playing host to San Francisco on Nov. 15 and Saint Mary’s (Calif.) on Nov. 17 at Gonzaga Soccer Field, where the Zags have a 4-2-2 record. Phillips and his teammates know the importance of these final games of the season and the impact that they can have in a potential tournament berth.
“I am proud of the season we have had so far, beating so many ranked teams, and having a winning record, but all that matters to me right now is getting into the playoffs.”