Lane United GK Ben Willis and Gonzaga look to ‘Keep Climbing’
By Keeler McJunkin
Lane United FC goalkeeper Ben Willis is using the experience he gained in goal over the summer with the Reds to get his college season with Gonzaga off to a strong start.
The Bulldogs (5-2-1) began the season with a five-match unbeaten streak, including two wins over nationally ranked teams with a 4-2 victory over then No. 16 Seattle University at home and a 3-1 win over then No. 20 American on the road in Washington, D.C.
After the unbeaten start and two wins over ranked teams, Gonzaga came in at No. 20 in the NSCAA poll last week, the first time they’ve been ranked since the 2007 season.
Willis, who has started all eight games in goal for the Bulldogs this season is off to a strong start himself. The junior has given up just nine goals and ranks third in the conference with 26 saves and a 1.09 goals against average.
After sitting behind former LUFC goalkeeper Chris Lowrimore during his first two seasons in Spokane, Willis is taking advantage of his time on the field in his third year with the Bulldogs.
“Getting the game experience with LUFC this year that I didn’t have after being behind Chris for two years was big,” Willis said. “I went into this summer with the mindset I needed to work my butt off to become the starter at Gonzaga. If I wasn’t working hard all summer with Lane and I didn’t have the coaches I had there, I don’t think I’d be starting with Gonzaga now.”
Willis not only took game experience with him after his first season with Lane United, but also spoke highly of the atmosphere and coaching he received while in Eugene.
“Coach Galas is so relaxed in what he does with all of the players,” Willis said. “You can tell when he’s serious, but also tell when he’s laid back. I think that created a good atmosphere throughout the team to show that we have to work hard, but at the same time we’re still there to have fun and enjoy what we’re doing.”
Part of seeing more time on the field as a starting keeper is taking on a leadership role and directing teammates from goal, something Willis worked on over the summer with LUFC and also as the college season has gotten underway.
“I’ve been told by a lot of coaches that I see everything and need to be able to lead from the back,” Willis said. “That’s the biggest thing I have worked on and also focusing on the little things. Make the simple saves I should and also have the mindset to make the saves my team needs me to save.”
Willis and the Bulldogs don’t want to let up after the unbeaten streak to start the season, he and his teammates aren’t happy with just a strong start. They want to get better as the year goes on.
With a tough conference season getting underway soon, they’ll have to be ready every night they take the field.
“We have a motto that’s ‘Keep Climbing’”, Willis said. “We’re not happy with No. 20, we want to keep going and keep the undefeated streak alive. The atmosphere here is great right now with five wins and a tie to start the season, but we’re not satisfied yet. We want more.”