By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SALEM, Ore. -- Max Berner-Hays (Fr., D, Seattle, WA/Ballard HS) of Willamette University has been chosen Northwest Conference Men's Soccer Freshman of the Year and Lloyd Fobi of Willamette has been named NWC Men's Soccer Coach of the Year in voting by the NWC head coaches. Berner-Hays and Alan Hernandez (Sr., F, Tigard, OR/Tigard HS) were selected First Team All-NWC.
Three Bearcats received Second Team All-NWC recognition. They were Nicholas Ballenger (So., F, Salem, OR/West Salem HS), Marco Gonzalez-Yanez (Jr., GK, Portland, OR/Central Catholic HS/U. of Portland), and Sodai Takayanagi (So., D, Moriokashi, Japan/Moriokakita).
Eddie Na, a senior forward from Pacific Lutheran University, was named NWC Offensive Player of the Year. Noah Cavanaugh, a senior defender at Whitman College, was chosen NWC Defensive Player of the Year.
The 2017 All-Northwest Conference Men's Soccer Team included 12 players on the First Team and 12 players on the Second Team. An additional 10 players were named Honorable Mention All-NWC.
Willamette earned a 10-6-2 record in the regular season and shared a co-championship in the NWC. The Bearcats and Pacific Lutheran tied for first place at 9-3-2. Willamette won the tie-breaker to receive the NWC's automatic bid to the 2017 NCAA Division III Men's Soccer Tournament.
WU will take on University of Mary Hardin-Baylor (Texas) in the first round on Saturday, Nov. 11 at 7:30 p.m. CST/5:30 p.m. PST on the campus of Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. If the Bearcats win on Saturday, they will move into the second round on Sunday, Nov. 12 against the winner of the first round game between Trinity and University of Texas-Tyler. Sunday's second round game is set for 7 p.m. CST/5 p.m. PST.
First Team All-Northwest Conference
Max Berner-Hays (Fr., D) was a leader of the Willamette defense. He was the only Bearcat to start all 18 games. He helped the Bearcats limit opponents to 18 goals overall, including just 10 goals in the final 15 games. Willamette recorded seven shutouts during the season and held six teams to one goal.
Hays provided strong play in the air, which contributed to his outstanding efforts on defense. His skill in the air also helped during set plays on offense. He led the Bearcats with six goals and one assist for 13 points during the season. He was named NWC Defensive Student-Athlete of the Week on Oct. 23 after scoring all three goals in a 2-0 win over George Fox University and a 1-0 win in overtime against Pacific University. He had four game-winning goals overall.
Alan Hernandez (Sr., F) provided the Bearcats with two goals and a team-high five assists for nine total points. He led Willamette by taking 21 of the team's 60 corner kicks. He played in all 18 games with 17 starts. He recorded a goal and an assist in the same game twice, including Willamette's 3-1 win at Whitworth on Sept. 30. He registered an assist in four games in a row between Sept. 17 and the game at Whitworth.
Hernandez supplied the Bearcats with quality ball control skills. He was able to pick up the ball in the midfield when needed and start the attack. In the final third, he could create his own shot by getting around a defender, or provide a teammate with a well-timed pass.
During his career at Willamette, Hernandez saw action in 72 games with 45 starts. He scored 14 goals and achieved 11 assists for 39 total points. He took a total of 117 shots for the Bearcats, including 54 shots on goal. He earned five game-winning goals. He scored two goals in a 2-1 win at Linfield College on Oct. 8, 2016.
Second Team All-Northwest Conference
Nicholas Ballenger (So., F) placed second on the team in scoring with three goals and four assists for 10 points. He transferred to Willamette after redshirting one year and playing one year at Oregon State University. This year with the Bearcats, he contributed size and skill on the forward line. He scored the game's only goal in Willamette's 1-0 win over University of California, Santa Cruz with 1:44 left in regulation in the home opener at Sparks Field.
Ballenger missed three games due to injury, but still saw action in 15 games and made 11 starts for the Bearcats. He blasted 28 shots and placed 12 shots on goal. He was strong both in the air and with the ball at his feet. Two of his goals were game-winners.
Marco Gonzalez-Yanez (Jr., F) earned a 1.05 goals against average during the season, while playing in 16 games. He registered a total of 59 saves. He earned three complete-game shutouts and participated in three shared shutouts.
Sodai Takayanagi (So., D) competed in 18 games with 17 starts for the Bearcats. He helped WU earn a 0.97 team goals against average.
As an outside defender he provided solid defense on the flanks. He also moved forward when the ball went up the field to provide support in the midfield and to contribute on offense. He scored the only goal in Willamette's 1-0 win over archrival Linfield College at Sparks Field on Oct. 7.
Northwest Conference Coach of the Year
Head Coach Lloyd Fobi led the Bearcats to an NWC co-championship this year. It was Willamette's first ever NWC title in men's soccer. He also guided the men's soccer team to its first ever NCAA Tournament berth.
In Fobi's seven season at Willamette, the Bearcats have finished at .500 or better five times, including four seasons with a winning record. His overall record as Willamette's head coach is 63-52-5, including 48-38-9 in the NWC. The Bearcats took second place in the NWC in 2014, when they went 10-2-2 in the conference and finished just one point behind Whitworth University for the title.