2011: 6-3, 4-2 Second in NWC
Dual-threat sophomore quarterback Dalton Ritchey excels in his first season under center. Stud senior running back Brandon James rushes for over 1,000 yards. Junior safety Sean McFadden anchors the conference’s best pass defense en route to earning defensive player of the year honors. The Lutes break a ten year losing streak to defending conference champion Linfield at home on Sep. 29 and Linfield’s senior quarterback Mickey Inns reportedly cries in the locker room. The victory propels the Lutes to an undefeated NWC campaign and its first conference title since 2001.
The quarterback picture becomes unclear as fellow sophomores Dalton Ritchey and Kevin Russell platoon the duration of the season. With an inconsistent passing attack, defenses key on the run game. The Lutes score less than 20 points a game and rely on the defense to keep games competitive. After a marginal season, the Lutes finish in fifth place in the NWC. After playing the season finale at Menlo College near San Francisco, fog envelopes the Bay Area and the entire team must take a long bus ride home.
2011: 15-4, 12-2 First in NWC
The Lutes have no problem replacing PLU career assists leader Surafel Wodajo and the powerful scoring tandem of Chad Kearns and Spencer Augustin who accounted for 57 percent of the Lutes goals last season. All three graduated. Junior goalie Joe Rayburn becomes known as “the Wall” around the conference and is named conference defensive player of the year. Still bitter about being forced to share the conference title with Whitworth last season, the Lutes sweep the season series from the Pirates and celebrate the inaugural season on the new field with a second straight conference championship. Freddy Montero of the Seattle Sounders hears about the budding men’s soccer dynasty and promises to send his children to PLU.
Goals are hard to come by and the Lutes sputter through the season. The Lutes are forced to abandon all title aspirations with five games remaining. Out of frustration the Lutes lead the conference in red cards and are forced to play the following season on Foss Field.
2011: 4-13-1, Seventh in NWC
Rejuvenated by a new a field and a new head coach, the women’s soccer team is the surprise story of the conference. Sophomore standout Sarah Gamache has a second straight all-conference season and finishes among the top three in the conference in scoring. The freshman class makes a quick transition to college soccer and is able to contribute immediately. The Lutes finish with double digit wins for the first time since 2006 and are considered title contenders in 2013. T-shirts with new head coach Seth Spidahl’s face are circulated around campus and become as popular as chicken strips in the UC.
The team lives up to the standard set for them in the preseason coach’s poll. The women’s program was picked to finish seventh in the conference for the second straight season. The abundance of youth on the squad is unable to mesh with the experience already in place and the team fails to find an identity. The team uniforms are lost in a traveling mishap and the team is forced to wear uniforms from 1984 for the final five games of the season.
2011: 21-6, 13-3 Second in NWC
As mundane as it may sound, the best case scenario for the 2012 volleyball squad is that nothing changes. Under seventeenth year Head Coach Kevin Aoki, the Lutes have been a model of consistency. The Lutes have won four conference titles in the last six seasons and have finished worse than second only once since 2003. After being named an Honorable Mention All-American setter as a freshman, Samantha North makes a serious push for conference MVP. With only one game remaining, the Lutes celebrate a conference championship in Olsen Auditorium Oct. 31 after knocking off cross-town rival UPS. The Lutes win a couple games in the NCAA Regional Tournament and classes are cancelled so the school can watch the games stream online.
Injuries. With a team as talented and perennially deep as the PLU volleyball team injuries may be the only thing that could prevent the program from making a run for the conference title. The injury issue becomes so serious that winners of the “fan serving contests” between sets win roster spots as opposed to t-shirts.