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Goalkeeper puts Best foot forward at Washington & Jefferson

| Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Courtesy Washington & Jefferson athletics
Washington & Jefferson goalkeeper Jon Best makes a save during a game during the 2012 season.

Washington & Jefferson junior goalkeeper Jon Best was just hoping to help his team get off to a good start this season.

He succeeded, primarily because Best got off to a solid start himself.

Best, a 2011 Norwin graduate, was named the Presidents' Athletic Conference's Goalie of the Week last week for his performance in Washington & Jefferson's first game of the season, a 1-0 victory over Mount Aloysius on Aug. 31. He followed that performance up by combining with teammate Ben Wilt on a shutout in a 2-0 victory over La Roche College on Sept. 4.

While the Presidents dropped to 2-1 after a 5-1 loss to Denison on Saturday, this season marks their first 2-0 start since 2005.

“It was nice for me to start on a positive note, but it was nice, too, for our team to start on a positive note,” Best said. “We struggled at the beginning of last year — we lost two (and) tied one — so it was definitely nice to win that first one and get that out of the way so we could continue pushing forward and improving.”

Improvement is the biggest thing on Best's mind this season. He started all 16 games in net last season, recording four shutouts and earning all-PAC second-team honors, but the Presidents began the season 0-4-1 and finished with a 6-7-3 record that kept them out of the PAC Tournament.

“I learned a lot from last year that I would like to bring into this year, too, just so I can help myself and help the team win more games and improve,” Best said.

Washington & Jefferson coach Ian McDonald asked Best to work on communicating with teammates in the offseason, and he noticed an improvement this season.

“That job responsibility (of being goalkeeper) does require you to communicate, organize (and) direct guys,” McDonald said. “It's just the nature of the position. Typically, (college) freshmen are like high school freshmen — they think they shouldn't be telling people what to do. But his position dictates that. I think he's more comfortable around the guys, more comfortable in that role.”

McDonald also noted that Best stepped up his already strong foot skills. Best said he focused on that while playing in games against former teammates over the summer.

“We field out of the back a lot, so that's important,” Best said. “I wanted to work on just being able to drive the ball out of the back to someone, be a little more accurate with my goal kicks (and) stuff like that.”

Best said the addition of Wilt — a Hampton graduate and transfer from State University of New York Brockport — helped him because the two are in constant competition for the starting job.

Because of the addition of Wilt and a strong freshman class, Washington & Jefferson is hoping for more than just a better start this season. With all but two players returning from last season, the Presidents also believe they could be in line for a better finish.

“We definitely would like to make the PAC Tournament,” Best said. “We got fifth the last two years, and you've got to get fourth to make the playoffs. We definitely think we can do that. If you finish in the top half of the PAC, (No.) 1 or 2, you get a home playoff game. I think that should be one of our goals. And then also our goal is to make the NCAA Tournament (by winning) the PAC Tournament. I think we are more than capable of doing that.”

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5830, via email at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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