By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SALEM, Ore. -- A total of seven Willamette University men's soccer players have been named to the 2018 All-Northwest Conference Men's Soccer Team, led by First Team selections Max Berner-Hays (So., D, Seattle, WA/Ballard HS), Yuta Suga (So., M, Urawa, Japan/RKU) and Nicholas Ballenger (Jr., F, Salem, OR/West Salem HS/Oregon State Univ.). Berner-Hays was chosen NWC Defensive Player of the Year after earning NWC Freshman of the Year last season.
Players from Willamette who were chosen Second Team All-NWC this year were Mason Kelliher (Jr., GK, Wellington, N.Z./Wellington College), Maxwell McKee (Sr., M, Coronado, CA/Coronado HS) and Quinn Mello-Bastida (Sr., F, San Jose, CA/Valley Christian HS/U. of Portland). Hikaru Ichigi (Jr., M, Kobe, Japan/Fujiigakuen Sangawa) was named Honorable Mention All-NWC.
The All-NWC Men's Soccer Team included 12 players on the First Team and 12 players on the Second Team. Eight players received Honorable Mention recognition.
Luke Murdock, a junior foward from University of Puget Sound was named NWC Offensive Player of the Year. Ryan Griffith, a freshman defender from Pacific Lutheran University, was voted NWC Freshman of the Year. Head Coach John Yorke from Pacific Lutheran was selected NWC Coach of the Year.
The Bearcats completed the 2018 season with an 11-4-4 overall record and placed third in the NWC with an 8-3-3 mark. Willamette has earned a 21-11-6 (.632) record over the past two seasons.
First Team All-Northwest Conference
Max Berner-Hays (So., D) earned First Team All-NWC honors for the second season in a row. This year, he was stellar on defense and also led the Bearcats in scoring. He produced a team-high nine goals and added four assists for 22 total points. He tied for second in the NWC in goal scoring and total points. Berner-Hays took 39 shots and placed 20 shots on goal. He scored the first goal of a game four times and recorded three game-winning goals. He played in 18 games, all starts, and led the team with 1,643 minutes played. The Bearcats allowed just 19 goals in 19 games, while shutting out six opponents.
On his way to being named NWC Freshman of the Year in 2017, he was the only Bearcat to start all 18 regular season games, while leading the team with six goals and one assist for 13 points. He helped WU tie for the NWC Championship, as the Bearcats received the NWC's automatic bid into the NCAA Division III Tournament. Overall, he played in 19 games and helped the Bearcats limit opponents to 19 goals, including just 11 goals in the final 17 games.
In two seasons at Willamette, Berner-Hays has played in 37 of 38 games -- all starts -- while scoring 15 goals and 5 assists for 35 points as a defender. He has produced 60 total shots with 30 shots on goal. He has registered seven game-winning goals for the Bearcats. He has been named NWC Defensive Student-Athlete of the Week twice and NWC Offensive Student-Athlete of the Week once.
Yuta Suga (So., M) joined the Bearcats this season and competed in 18 games with 17 starts. He registered three assists and created many offensive chances both from the run of play and by taking many offensive free kicks. He ranked second on the team with 1,580 minutes played.
Suga recorded his first assist in a 2-0 win over Puget Sound on Sept. 16. He added two assists in Willamette's 3-2 victory against Linfield College on Oct. 6. During the year, he blasted 14 shots for the Bearcats.
Nicholas Ballenger (Jr., F) trailed only Berner-Hays on the Willamette scoring chart, as he contributed seven goals and three assists for 17 total points. He led the Bearcats with 57 total shots and 30 shots on goal. He played in all 19 games and made 16 starts.
In 2017, he ranked second in scoring for the Bearcats with three goals and four assists for 10 points. He saw action in 16 games with 11 starts. He took 30 shots and placed 14 shots on target.
During the past two seasons, he has scored 10 goals and supplied seven assists for 27 points. He has created 87 shots, including 44 shots on goal.
Second Team All-Northwest Conference
Mason Kelliher (Jr., GK) stepped into the starting goalkeeper's role this fall after being a forward in 2017 and provided the Bearcats with quality play throughout the season. He achieved an impressive 10-3-2 record with a 0.81 goals against average and a .833 save percentage. His efforts led to five solo shutouts and one shared shutout. He registered 62 saves, including a carer-high eight saves against Linfield on Oct. 6.
He was a goalkeeper ad a freshman in 2016, when he saw action in two games, both starts. He has played in 18 career games with 16 starts, and has earned an 11-3-2 record, a 0.77 goals against average and a .844 save percentage. Last year, he played in 19 games (17 starts) at forward and earned one assist.
Maxwell McKee (Sr., M) competed in 19 games (14 starts) this season. He scored two goals and contributed one assist. He was a key player for the Bearcats during transitions from defense to offense. Once the ball was on the attack, McKee was a valuable player in keeping possession and creating chances to score.
During his four years on the Willamette men's soccer team, McKee played in 60 games, including 39 starts. He blasted 39 shots with 15 shots on goal. He scored a total of three goals and two assists. All three of his goals were game-winning goals, including the overtime winner when Willamette rallied from a 3-0 deficit to defeat Wisconsin Lutheran College, 4-3, on Sept. 9, 2018.
Quinn Mello-Bastida (Sr., F) ranked first for the Bearcats and second in the NWC this year with seven assists. He also scored one goal and had nine total points. He took 59 of Willamette's 117 corner kicks and was a great provider of quality passes on corners and other direct free kicks. He played in 16 games with 11 starts. He provided two assists in games against Wisconsin Lutheran and George Fox University.
In three seasons since transferring from University of Portland, Mello-Bastida played in 47 games (28 starts). He achieved two goals and 12 assists. He used his skills to earn 45 shots. His career totals included two assists in a game three times, plus a goal and an assist in a 4-0 win at Pacific University on Oct. 23, 2018.
Honorable Mention All-Northwest Conference
Hikaru Ichigi (Jr., M) joined the Willamette men's soccer team for the current season. He competed in 13 games and made nine starts for the Bearcats. He was one of the most creative attacker in the NWC this season. His offensive skills helped him score four goals and eight total points, while taking 27 shots with 11 shots on goal. Several of his shots hit the post or crossbar, or barely missed going into the net.
Three of his goals were game-winners. He scored the tie-breaking goal with 2:10 left in the first overtime period in a 3-2 win at Linfield on Oct. 6. He also scored game-winners in consecutive games against George Fox in a 2-1 win on Sept. 22 and versus Pacific in a 4-0 victory on Sept. 23.