By John Tveter, Sports Writer
Every successful soccer team has a goal keeper that it can count on, and for the Lutes that player is Joe Rayburn. Rayburn, a senior, came to Pacific Lutheran University in the fall of 2010, and the men’s soccer program has really turned the corner since the 6-foot-4-inch goalkeeper began playing between the sticks.
Since 2010, the Lutes have gone 44-16-10, recording a winning percentage of .682.
Rayburn has been the primary keeper during nearly all of his time at PLU after seizing the job midway through his first season.
Rayburn, 22, is from Portland and after a stellar soccer and golf career for Sunset High School in Portland, he said he was looking to continue his soccer career collegiately.
“I had some talks with a few Division I schools, but for whatever reason those talks all fell through,” Rayburn said. Head coach John Yorke recruited Rayburn in January of his high school senior year.
“I did some soul searching, and talked to my friends and family,” Rayburn said. “They told me that I deserved to keep playing, to keep doing something that I love.”
In 2013, the Lutes have gotten off to the best start in school history, starting the season with a 12-game unbeaten streak before taking their first loss against Puget Sound on Oct. 12.
The Lutes’ success has also garnered national attention. They have risen in the polls and are ranked fifth as of Oct. 8. Rayburn has been phenomenal defensively thus far in the season, but he shares his success with his defensive backline playing in front of him.
“My successes individually and as a team this season is both due to our improved defensive discipline and our mindset change,” Rayburn said. When first at PLU, Rayburn said the team focused more on offense, looking to outscore opponents.
“This season we have more of a no-nonsense attitude,” Rayburn said. “This year we have chosen to defend better, and we are reaping the rewards of that.”
Rayburn has made 40 saves and has recorded five shutouts so far this season. He is recording a shutout percentage of .833, which ranks 49th in the nation.
As life has moved forward for Rayburn, he still maintains close ties to the people who have helped him become who he is today. He said he still depends on his family, and he knows that they are always there for him.
“Growing up I really looked up to my brother,” Rayburn said. “He’s five years older, so he experienced everything first. He really showed me how to be successful. My family is my rock.”
Rayburn’s brother, Sam, played college basketball at University of California-Berkeley.
The perspective Rayburn gained from his family has helped him thrive since he arrived at PLU, both on and off the field. In the classroom he is a finance major, and in 2012 he earned Capital One Academic All-District 8 NCAA Division III First Team honors.
This prestigious award recognizes some of the most successful Division III student-athletes in the western United States. Rayburn is focused right now on making his senior season as successful as it can be, but he is also aware that all too soon, his time at PLU will end.
“It’s been pretty strange thinking about future plans, [and] having to face the reality of making real-life decisions,” Rayburn said. “It’s just a new chapter of my life that I’m looking forward to.”
Rayburn has talked to a few former coaches about possibly attending a few soccer combines and maybe playing lower-division soccer. At the same time, he’s looking into obtaining finance internships and advancing his career in that light.