CAMILLE LEMKE

Sports Writer

lemkecr@plu.edu

Pacific Lutheran University men’s soccer looks to secure their position within the Northwest Conference (NWC) at a critical time in the middle of their season. With a record of 5 wins, 4 losses, and 1 tie with 10 games left to play, junior Eddie Na is confident and ready to help his team add more wins to their record.

Na has eight goals and five assists so far this season, making him second in the conference in goals scored and first in the conference in assists. His goal scoring and his opportunity-creating abilities as a forward are contributions he works extremely hard during the season and the offseason as he trains vigorously.

Na attributes a lot of his success so far this season to his vigorous offseason training. He played for the Tacoma Stars Reserves in the Western Indoor Soccer League, South Sound FC and, most impressively, the Guam national team. He considers his participation with each program a blessing, but playing with the Guam national team was something special.

“It’s like a dream playing for Guam. I’m extremely blessed for the opportunity of being in the player pool for them to pick from,” said Na. “It was so eye-opening to see some guys who have played at a very high level treating me like an equal. The team isn’t like many others because of how close and welcoming everyone is. It felt like a family as soon as I was picked up from the airport, and I’m excited and constantly working hard to get my call back again.”

The skills Na honed playing with such high level teams, especially being a part of the Guam national team, are factors he says are helping his game back home at PLU.

“[Guam] helped me a lot because the speed of the game while I was abroad was constantly thinking seven, eight steps ahead,” said Na. “Learning people’s tendencies and playing to their strengths, [it] carried over when I came back.”

His teammates and opponents alike are acknowledging the improvements he has made on the field from his first year to now. The intensity of his play, whether in practice or in a game, is contagious.

“When Eddie is on fire, the team is on fire,” said senior Clint Absher. “He is a very important asset to the team for that reason. He is a force to be reckoned with, whether he is the one passing, shooting or, most dangerously with Eddie, dribbling at defenders.”

8pm3ya1jgqloirupNa’s stats are proof that he has been on fire all season. Na’s goals and assists have earned him 21 points in the 10 games the Lutes have played so far. Of those ten games, there are only two in which Eddie did not score or assist a goal. Six of Eddie’s 21 points came from just one game against Pomona College in which he scored twice and assisted Clint Absher’s goal.

“The chemistry between us has grown off the field and led to good play on the field,” said Absher. “I love playing alongside Eddie because he demands so much attention that it causes gaps to open up for the other players to expose, which makes it easier for his teammates.”

Four of Na’s goals were scored unassisted, making it clear that Eddie creates opportunities for himself on the field. He also works just as hard to create opportunities for his teammates, including Clint Absher, for whom Na has assisted two of his four goals this season.

The feeling of scoring a goal is one that Na described he would never get enough of.  His drive to score and contribute to his team is something that makes him a valuable player.

“Individually I am pushing myself as hard as possible to lead the league in goals and assists because I know those stats will eventually pay off in trying to win a conference title,” said Na.

The Lutes are projected to finish second in the conference this season, according to the Northwest Conference Coaches Poll. With an indefinite record thus far, the team uses this preliminary standing as motivation.

“Being voted second is always a good thing, but when you’re a part of this program, we aim to be first. We like that people are overlooking us and thinking that Whitworth will win,” said Na. “They got the better of us last year by one point. But we expect to get a Conference championship this year.”

PLU beat Whitworth last weekend in stunning fashion as Na scored the game-winning goal. It was his second of the afternoon.

Na’s confidence, ability and drive are sure to help lead the Lutes to a successful rest of their 2016 season.

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