Lutes Prepare For Toughest Tests In Weekend Showdowns
THIS WEEK: Halfway through the conference schedule, the Pacific Lutheran University men's soccer team must immediately turn around after a huge win against the University of Puget Sound to face their toughest home tests thus far when Whitworth University and Whitman College visit the Parkland campus. Just three weeks ago when the Lutes visited the eastern side of the Cascades, the Whits threw everything, plus the kitchen sink, at PLU in an effort to disrupt the Lutes' road success. This weekend, the Lutes will have to contend with two teams that are seeking revenge and the chance at the NWC title.
GETTING TO KNOW THE PIRATES: In a game that has massive title implications, the Lutes will square off against a common foe in the Whitworth University Pirates. The teams are tied atop the NWC standings, and the winner of Saturday's matchup will have a sizeable advantage entering the latter half of the season. While the Pirates are sitting at 8-2-1, 6-1 in NWC play, their past two road games have come down to the wire. In their wins against Whitman last weekend and Linfield the week before, late Cameron Bushey penalties propelled the Pirates to victory. Whitworth is 7-0-1 away this season, and always poses the Lutes a challenege. Last seasons matchup in Parkland saw the Lutes take a 2-0 lead before getting two red cards early in the second half. The Lutes held on for victory to split the 2010 series with the Bucs. Led this season by senior midfielder Cameron Bushey, who has four goals and six assists this season, the Pirates boast an impressive defensive record. In the seven NWC contests so far, Whitworth has only been scored on twice. One of the goals came in the 1-0 loss to the Lutes earlier this season when Spencer Augustin struck to give the Lutes victory in Spokane. Over the past seven matches between PLU and Whitworth, the teams have split down the middle, with each going 3-3-1. For the Lutes to have a serious bite at the NWC title, a win Saturday is of high importance. The game will be at 2:30 pm at the PLU soccer field.
WHITMAN ON A MISSION FOR REDEMPTION: After a fast and hard start to the conference season, the Whitman Missionaries have run into several rough losses in recent weeks. In the most recent against Whitworth, the Missionaries held a 1-0 lead until the 87th minute when the Pirates were able to strike twice to snatch victory in the Eatern Washington derby. Whitman is now 4-5-2, 4-3 in NWC play, and six points off the pace in the conference race. The Missionaries have been led this season by winger Sam Freedman (one goal, three assists) and center midfielder Junpei Tsuji (two goals). In the first contest this season between PLU and Whitman, the Lutes went down 2-0 in the first half, and had to fight tirelessly to earn a 3-2 OT victory when Augustin had a left-footed banger that sent the Lutes into a victory frenzy. The Lutes are currently 41-8-1 all-time against Whitman, yet the Missionaries have forced tought contests in recent years and have taken two of the last six matches between the sides. With a win Sunday against Whitman, the Lutes would place themselves in a good position to contend for the conference title. The game will be at 2:30 pm on Sunday at the PLU soccer field.
NOTCHING UP ANOTHER RECORD: In the Lutes' 4-2 victory this past weekend against rivals Puget Sound, senior forward Chad Kearns tied the career game-winning goals record at PLU with his 15th tally. The 60th minute wonder strike ties him with PLU scoring legend Michael Ferguson for the top slot. Kearns will have at least seven more opportunities to break the record, with Whitworth and Whitman being the first opportunities this weekend.
CREAM OF THE NATIONAL CROP: Senior midfield maestro Surafel Wodajo is currently ranked #1 in the nation in total assists. With his two assist against UPS, Wodajo is now tied with Steven Zapata of Albertus Magnus (Conn.) with 12 assists. Wodajo was a First-Team All-NWC selection in 2010 and has already surpassed his assist total from a year ago. The winger is second behind Zapata in assists per game with 1.09 per contest. Fellow senior, Spencer Augustin, is tied for ninth in goals per game (1.00) as he has scored 11 goals in as many games, and added five assists.
LUTES STAY IN NSCAA TOP 25: For the second consecutive week, the Lutes have moved up in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Top 25 rankings. The Lutes were ranked #24 last week, and have moved up to #19 following their win over UPS. The Lutes are still ranked #3 in the West Region behind Trinity University (#5 nationally) and the University of Texas-Tyler (#12 nationally), and have consistenly been recognized for their play over the season. PLU was ranked #22 in the country during the preseason after its successful trip to Wisconsin where it beat UW-Whitewater, Carroll University, and St. Norbert College. To see the complete NSCAA poll, click here.
PLU 4, UPS 2: Pacific Lutheran made it five Northwest Conference victories in a row on Saturday and held on to at least a share of the league lead with a 4-2 victory over the host Puget Sound Loggers at Peyton Field. Spencer Augustin continued his scoring binge with two goals and Lucas McCallumand Chad Kearns added a goal apiece as the Lutes, ranked 24th in Division III soccer, improved to 9-2 overall and 6-1 in the conference. Puget Sound came into the game tied atop the NWC standings with the Lutes and Whitworth, but with the loss it dropps to 6-4 overall and 5-2 in the league table. Augustin, a senior forward out of Anchorage, Alaska, netted his 10th and 11th goals of the season and his sixth and seventh in the last five matches. Kearns scored his eighth goal and McCallum had his fourth as PLU reached the 33-goal mark in 11 matches. Puget Sound took a deserved 1-0 lead at 12:31 when Peter Russell scored on a free kick from outside the penalty box. After that, however, the Lutes started getting a significant portion of the play and it paid off when Augustin equalized at 23:26, heading home a corner kick from Surafel Wodajo. Pacific Lutheran took a 2-1 lead just 1:11 before the halftime intermission when Augustin passed to McCallum, who beat Puget Sound keeper Chris McDonald. Kearns, who scored 15 goals last season to earn NWC Offensive Player of the Year honors, ended a five-match goalless streak with a sizzling 18-yard strike at 59:37. Kearns was in the right spot to fire home after the ball was knocked clear following a Wodajo corner kick. Wodajo was credited with his second assist of the match and his 12th of the season. He went into the contest ranked second in Division III soccer in total assists. Augustin picked up the two-goal brace at 77:22, running onto a beautiful through ball from Derek Johnson and rolling the shot past McDonald and inside the far post. The Loggers got one back at 87:47 when Sean Ryan poked the ball home in a goal mouth scramble. Puget Sound was credited with a 21-15 shot advantage, including nine on goal compared to seven for the Lutes. PLU was more efficient on offense, however, and also benefitted greatly from a solid game by keeper Joe Rayburn. The big sophomore finished the game with six saves, and the defense also cleared one ball off the line. The Lutes had a pair of potential goals cleared off the line by the UPS defense.
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