Spotted from the Crow's Nest: Eduardo Lopez

Men’s soccer Head Coach Morgan Cathey brought a distinct coaching philosophy with him when he came to Whitworth, but he also attracted some talent. Senior Eduardo Lopez followed his former assistant coach, Cathey, from California State University Stanislaus to Whitworth University, where he has put his talent to work for the men’s team. “A coach can make a lot of impact on a player,” sophomore defender Spencer Wolfe said. “The ability to come up here and play again for Morgan [Cathey] so they could build on that personal relationship, but also that soccer relationship that they had built, played a big role in getting Eddie [Lopez] up here.”

Lopez redshirted his freshman year, which was common at CSUS, to help the freshmen learn how to play college level soccer, as it is different from playing high school soccer, Lopez said.

Lopez competed in 16 matches and made five starts through his last two seasons at CSUS, a Division II School.

Cathey not only impacted Lopez as a player, but also as a person.

“He’s been the best coach I’ve ever been coached by,” Lopez said. “He’s just a great person on and off the field. If I had any questions, I would go straight to him. I really like his vision, the way he wants his team to play. He [is] always positive. If you did something good, he acknowledged you for it, which makes you want to strive for more.”

When Cathey announced he was taking the Whitworth job in the spring of 2013, Lopez was devastated.

After a year without Cathey as part of his college soccer experience, Lopez contacted his former assistant coach, asking him if there was room for him at Whitworth, to which Cathey said, “Definitely,” Lopez said.

Lopez visited in the spring of 2014 with his father and his sister Laura Lopez, while staying with Whitworth soccer team member Wolfe.

“[When Lopez] came, we went out for dinner… so I got to know him a little bit before the rest of the team did,” Wolfe said. “I thought he was a good fit then, and ever since he came I thought he was an even better fit.”

It is important for Cathey to let the players know that he has their best interest at heart, not just on the field, but also off the field, Cathey said.

“It is important for [Lopez] to know that I care about [him] and that I am going to do everything I can to make sure that he is successful on the soccer field, in the classroom, and more importantly to make sure that he is successful in life,” Cathey said.

This season, Lopez wants to have a senior year in which he gets to fully experience college, as it is his first year living away from his family, Lopez said.

“It was mixed emotions for me. He has always lived at home, [and] didn’t have too much responsibility besides just being a college student and a soccer player. So, I was worried, but I never doubted his capability,” Laura Lopez said. “I was jealous that he did what he did... in a good way, because I wish I would have done what he did. I am extremely proud of him.”

Having a player like Lopez come in and start makes a difference, Wolfe said.

Cathey believes that one of Lopez’ strengths is the ability to step into the midfield and defend a forward or a midfield player that has dropped off in the defensive line.

“I knew that he would enjoy our soccer environment. I knew that he would enjoy the school,” Cathey said.

 

Jessica Razanadrakoto

Staff Writer

Spotted from the Crow's Nest: Brodrick Hirai

From first glance on a football field, senior Brodrick Hirai embodies the ideal physical stature of an elite defensive lineman. Standing at 6’1 and weighing in at 255 pounds, Hirai leads the Whitworth defensive line against some of the most explosive offenses in NCAA Division III football. However, what most people don’t see on Saturdays are the long hours and stress he has gone through just to be able to be on the field this season.

Hirai first came to Whitworth as freshman in the Fall of 2010 during the John Tully football era.

“I liked the school when I first visited,” Hirai said. “I liked the program, the feel of the campus, and I knew a lot of people who had come here already. When I sat down with my parents, we all agreed that a school like Whitworth would be perfect for me, and we were right.”

From his first season at Whitworth, Hirai split time on the defensive line, lettering his freshmen year. Hirai earned his starting roster spot his sophomore year. At the culmination of the season, he was named Northwest Conference honorable mention.

“Brodrick is an extremely dependable player. We knew exactly what he was going to give the team ever since his freshman year,” recruiting coordinator Jason Tobeck said. “Whether it was in practice, in the weight room, or on the football field, we knew that he was going to give us his all.”

With such a successful underclassman performance, Hirai did not stop there. After his junior season, Hirai was named Northwest Conference honorable mention for defensive line along with the CoSIDA academic All-District honoree award. Following his junior season, Hirai was named Northwest Conference honorable mention as well as one of four captains for the 2013 season.

With the captain position and starting spot to his name, Hirai’s senior season came to an early end after tearing his lateral meniscus, ACL and MCL in his left knee during Whitworth’s first game against St. Scholastica in the 2013 season.

“Late in the third quarter, my left knee planted and gave out funny. I remember it had been bugging me before in preseason training camp leading up to the game,” Hirai said.

After the injury, Hirai underwent surgery for meniscus, ACL and MCL repair. Hirai began light rehabilitation just two weeks after the surgery at the Whitworth athletic training center. Through a nine-month recovery process, Hirai was able to receive full athletic clearance on his knee.

“I learned from my injury to never take things for granted. A task as simple as carrying my food in SAGA was difficult for me without my left leg,” Hirai said.

In his senior season, Hirai faced a decision regarding his academic eligibility. After getting back to full health, according to the NCAA, Hirai still had a year left of athletic eligibility.

“I wanted to end [my football career] on my own terms,” Hirai said. “I wanted to play that final season. I wanted to be with the guys. Watching the entire year last year, I needed to play again.”

Hirai made the decision to accept his eligibility and enroll for one more semester at Whitworth.

His triumphs on the field were complementary to his excellence in the classroom. Hirai’s academic pursuits were dedicated to biology and the pre-medicine track. With the dream of one day becoming a family doctor, Hirai excelled in his classes throughout his college career earning a 3.89 GPA through rigorous science courses.

“He is very caring guy who is always learning and willing to learn. He sits in on classes just because he wants to help those around him achieve,” senior defensive lineman Kyle Warr said.

Hirai’s willingness to help others is noticed by many around him, including his head football coach.

“Brodrick greatly values his teammates. It’s not all about him, it’s about the cause,” Head Coach Rod Sandberg said. “He is willing to have relationships with the players on the team and that is why they respect him and follow him.”

After the season comes to a close, Hirai plans on continuing the process of applying to medical schools around the country. As of now Hirai’s top choice is the University of Washington Medical School in Seattle.

 

Joshua Omdal

Staff Writer

Spotted from the Crow's Nest: Nicole Leonard

When spectators see junior Nicole Leonard compete at volleyball, there is no doubt she has a fighter’s spirit. Her skill on the court earned her 801 digs over the past two seasons along with 579 kills and 30 aces. However, what stands out the most to the people who know her best is her commitment to building strong relationships in all aspects of her life. Whether she’s leading her teammates in matches, working as a youth leader at St. Luke Lutheran Church, or connecting with elementary school students through Whitworth’s education program, Leonard invests in people. “Building relationships is really important to me. With that, it goes through friendships, family, volleyball, and the youth group. With volleyball, if you don’t have a good relationship with a girl on the court, it’s not going to work out well. You’re not going to play well as a team,” Leonard said. “My family’s super important to me. They come up and support me all the time.”

For the 2014 season, Leonard moved up the leadership ranks on the team. With no seniors, she is one of only six upperclassmen. As a result, her leadership and rare two years of experience are key motivators for her teammates.

“She has a lot of qualities that make her a great leader but also her experience. Players look to her,” Head Coach Kati Bodecker said. “She leads through actions but also does a great job communicating with her team mates, letting them know the expectations of the program. She lets her actions speak first.”

As a freshman, Leonard started in all 23 matches and as a sophomore, she continued building the team dynamic when she started in all 28 matches. Her involvement cemented friendships with her teammates, especially with her fellow Californian and Pirate right-side player, junior Shawna Korshavn. After growing up in the same church in Thousand Oaks and playing club volleyball together, Korshavn’s friendship with Leonard speaks to Leonard’s passion for making connections with others.

“She helps out with the high-schoolers and middle-schools [at our church]. They were actually at the game [last Wednesday] and they were pumped to see her play,” Korshavn said. “With her being older--a junior on the team--she wants the freshmen to look up to her more as a person than as a skilled volleyball player. I think she really tries to praise God through her play and praise people through her play, by really lifting up the team and being a good role model.”

Although Leonard knew she always wanted to be a teacher, it was Whitworth’s education program that solidified Leonard’s decision to connect with younger children at a personal level. Getting into the classroom and interacting with the students brought out her passion for working with youth, Leonard said.

“Ever since I got to hang out with the kids, I knew it was a done deal. I’m going to be a teacher. I love it so much,” Leonard said.

This passion for people combined with a competitive nature developed through years of playing not only volleyball but softball as well, have strengthened Leonard so that she plays a foundational role as a teammate, youth leader, and friend.

“In Nicole I see a lot of strength. She’s a very strong person. She has had to battle and overcome injuries and she does her best not to let that affect her performance or her attitude out on the court,” Head Coach Kati Bodecker said. “There’s a lot of times, I think, where she’s actually in a lot of pain but I would not even notice because she doesn’t make that a point of focus.”

For Leonard, the focus is on others needs. When freshman Gracie Meiners joined the team this year, her first impressions of Leonard revealed Leonard’s people-centered outlook.

“What’s most important to Nicole is making sure our team dynamic is good. [She] makes sure we’re all working together and having a good time while still working hard,” Meiners said. “When I first met Nicole, she made me feel welcome and [she] always encouraged me to do my best. Skill-wise she’s extremely good, so watching her be a role model and set that high standard made me want to push myself and work harder too.”

Leonard plans to carry her relational focus and inner strength into her vocation as a future elementary school teacher and as an athlete striving with her teammates for an NWC title this season.

 

Leah Dassler

Staff Writer

Spotted from the Crow's Nest: Christina Williams

There are those who run cross country for the opportunity to be on a close-knit team. There are those who run cross country because they like to race. Then there are those who run cross country to win. Senior Christina Williams is one of those people. “I think everybody is different, but winning is a big deal [for her]. That’s just blunt honest. She likes to win,” Head Coach Toby Schwarz said.

After finishing out her high school career with two years at Northwest Christian in which she was named team MVP her senior year and broke the school’s 5k record, Williams moved on to Whitworth. Since then, she has been a dominating force for the Pirates.

Williams is one of the team captains this year on a team that has goals of going to nationals. After a summer that included an injury, Williams remains confident that she can help the women’s team get to nationals.

“Toby [Schwarz] has told us several times that he thinks we’re the best women’s team that [Whitworth] has ever had and there’s been a team that’s gotten sixth in the nation before,” Williams said.

Williams also said she has personal reasons for wanting the team to get to the national stage.

“If that’s our potential, I’m not going to be content unless we get there,” Williams said.

Williams also said the cross country program here at Whitworth dictated her goals to a great extent.

“The focus is much more on nationals so I think coming in as a freshman I kind of knew that and ever since I’ve been a freshman that’s been a goal,” Williams said.

Jon Williams, Christina’s husband, said that Christina has become more frustrated with the injuries than in the past because this is her senior year. However, Jon Williams said she has stayed positive.

“I think for her, she’s just glad she can do it,” Williams said. “There was a while where it was pretty bad over the summer injury wise and [she realizes] just being able to compete in cross country meets is awesome.”

After being one of the three team captains last year, Williams is the only returning captain of the three this year. Williams said she continues to feel humbled by the opportunity.

“It’s just an honor that I get to do that and hopefully I get to lead by example,” Williams said. “We have such a good team and to be a part of the leadership of that team is awesome.”

Junior Kellyn Roiko, one of Williams’ co-captains along with junior Amanda Blankenship, said that Williams is really intentional about running.

“Every practice she comes and thinks about the workout and really focuses on it, but she’s also very intentional about encouraging everyone on the team and being positive,” Roiko said.

Her husband echoed those words.

“Running means a lot to her, so it’s a big deal if she doesn’t go out on a run every day,” Jon Williams said. “As she’s gotten older, I think it’s just become something she wants to do for the rest of her life.”

While Williams admits that she is glad she is a goal-oriented person, she also admits that sometimes that characteristic can hurt her if she’s not careful. However, Roiko believes that Williams does a good job of keeping her attitude balanced after a race, regardless of the outcome.

“[Her attitudes] are different but she’s not drastically upset or negative if she doesn’t do well in a race,” Roiko said. “She’s a constructive person so she’ll take what she didn’t do well and figure out how to change that but she doesn’t let that affect other people around her.”

Williams’ high school coach at Northwest Christian, Terry Meyer, served as both her cross country coach and as her AP Chemistry teacher. Meyer said Williams was very much the same in the classroom as she was in cross country.

“She was an incredible student, very thorough, really a delight to have in class,” Meyer said. “She seemed to enjoy class and took chemistry to the extra step and was always doing above and beyond. As an athlete, that kind of marks who she is as well.”

Meyer said he grew to have a certain level of expectation with anything Williams did.

“Each area that I watched her in, I could just expect that whatever she was going to do, she would do 100 percent,” Meyer said.

Williams hopes to use her winner’s mentality this season as a driving force behind the women’s team’s goal, and William’s goal, of qualifying for cross country nationals.

 

Connor Soudani

Sports Editor

New captain on deck for Whitworth Pirate football

Head Coach Rod Sandberg’s office has the faint smell of vegetables when I walk in, as he removes a plastic food container from the table he had been sitting at. “I never miss a meal,” Sandberg said.

As I sit down, I notice the poster of Walter Payton low on the wall next to his desk with a caption that describes him as the greatest Chicago Bear of all time. Sandberg’s Whitworth Pirates jacket hangs on a peg behind the door.

Sandberg’s office looks typical of those inhabited by coaches highly invested in their job, with paperwork scattered on tables and picture frames filled with images of former players from his time at Wheaton hanging from the wall across from his desk. There are stacks of folders filled with seemingly infinite bundles of paper next to his keyboard and on the ground when he seemed to run out of space. There are a few comfortable looking chairs  in front of his desk and a few at a small coffee table he eats his lunch at. With all of these attributes, Sandberg’s office is an office that seems to invite conversation for those who enter it. However, it is also an office that Sandberg said has historically been alien to many players on the team.

“I got here and no players came in to the offices. I’m here for like a month and my coaches that I brought with me from the program I was at were saying, ‘Where is everybody?’” Sandberg said. “I interviewed every single player in this office for about 45 minutes and you don’t know how many of them told me that they had never even been in here before.”

In addition, much like his embracement of open-door policies, Sandberg brings in a new set of philosophies to the program.

“I have a vision. The vision for Whitworth football is that it should be life-changing for the players that are in our program,” Sandberg said. “That’s pretty wide open, and the reason I like that is that it becomes not about what the athlete can do for us, but it puts it on our coaching staff [to say] ‘what can we do for the athlete? How can we invest in him, get to know him and maximize all the incredible opportunities that exist at a school like Whitworth.’”

Sandberg has even instilled a motto for this season of “We Believe.” It is displayed proudly on a banner above the back door of Graves Gym in capitalized red, block letters. The motto applies to the team and to the season ahead of them, Sandberg said.

“We don’t want to have a football team. Football teams are not special. There’s a thousand million trillion football teams,” Sandberg said. “We want to have a football family and that takes being honest and vulnerable and open. I have to be authentic and real and share my struggles and problems.”

Sandberg laid out his four program goals in a letter he gave to his players. In it, he emphasized Faith, Future, Family and Fun. Sandberg writes that if he does not feel as though he or his coaching staff has lived up to challenging the players on all of these fronts, “we will feel like we failed him [the athlete].”

Even with the change, the team took to Sandberg right from the start, senior quarterback Bryan Peterson said.

“[The team] really bought in to his methods of doing things because he’s a fantastic leader and someone you can trust, someone who reaches out and makes personal connections,” Peterson said.

On the practice field, Sandberg brings a high level of enthusiasm to the program every day, Peterson said.

“He’s always in a good mood, always full of enthusiasm and that just lifts me up and makes me feel better. So that’s a great quality he has and I really appreciate that about him,” Peterson said.

However, even with the resignation of long-time Head Coach John Tully coming after a 4-6 overall record last year, some aspects of the program remained the same. For instance, Tully’s son Jay was kept on the coaching staff along with a number of other assistant coaches.

“I think the biggest challenge is becoming a part of a new coaching staff, understanding the new routines and expectations. Just making sure that I fulfill the expectations that he has for me as an assistant coach,” Tully said.

Despite the new energy and attitude that Sandberg brings to practice, the team and coaches are not focused so much on winning as they are on achieving their goals.

“As far as the record goes, each week we are trying to better ourselves and that’s not necessarily going to speak in record,” Peterson said. “If we improve each week and we do the things [we need to do] and win our own battles, the record should speak for itself.”

With two wins already in the books, Sandberg and the revitalized Pirates will take on La Verne in California next weekend in an effort to remain undefeated.

Connor Soudani

Sports Editor