Lutes Take First Trip South For Hard NWC Matchups
THIS WEEK: With two more enormous wins under its belt, the Pacific Lutheran University men's soccer team travels to Oregon this weekend to take on the Willamette University Bearcats and the Linfield College Wildcats in two tough Northwest Conference matches. The Lutes visit Oregon for the first time this season, anxious to redeem themselves for an early season conference loss to Willamette at home. The games will be Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
NWC TABLE: With 24 points on eight wins, the Lutes (8-1) are three points ahead of Whitworth (7-2) in the conference table. Puget Sound and Whitman are both at 15 points on 5-4 records. PLU faces four of its remaining five NWC games on the road over the next two weekends before closing the 2011 regular season at home against Puget Sound on Nov. 5
SCRATCHING UP THE WINS: After starting the 2011 conference schedule with several huge wins, the Willamette Bearcats have become a serious threat in the 2011 season. Sitting at 5-5-2 overall, 4-4-1 in NWC play, the Bearcats have strung together some nice play to place themselves on 13 points in the table. Earlier this season, the Bearcats scratched and clawed to shock the Lutes in a 2-1 victory at PLU, handing the Lutes their only conference loss of this season. The Bearcats have already quadrupled their final conference win total from a year ago, when they finished 1-11-2 and in seventh place. Offensively, the Bearcats have become potent in front of goal. Junior forward Erik Kaufman is currently third in the NWC in goals with seven, with two assists to boot. Fellow junior Mike McGrew has added five goals to the Bearcats tally, including a ripping free kick that opened the scoring against the Lutes in mid-September. After that loss, the Lutes are 30-17-3 all-time against Willamette and must take this Saturday's matchup as a viable test for the season. The match will be at 2:30 p.m. in Salem, Oregon.
GETTING TO KNOW THE WILDCATS: In the 2011 season, the Linfield Wildcats have struggled to find a consistent form from week to week. After losing a strong senior class from 2010, including First Team All-NWC forward Michael Camacho, the Wildcats are currently 0-8-1 in NWC matches this season. Without the composed Camacho up top for the Wildcats, goals have been hard to come by, with Xavier Reed leading the attack with two goals on 17 shots. In the first matchup between the sides this season, Lutes forward Chad Kearns scored a hat trick to lead PLU to a 4-0 win over the visiting Wildcats. When the Lutes visited Linfield last season, they narrowly won, 2-1, on a late Mark Lee header that propelled the Lutes to victory on a cold day in October. Sunday's match will be vital for the Lutes to continue to contend for the NWC crown this season. The game will be Sunday at 2:30 p.m. in McMinnville, Ore.
NATIONALLY KNOWN: For the third consecutive week, the Lutes are ranked in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Top 25 rankings. The Lutes are ranked No. 19 for the second week in a row despite knocking off a Whitworth side that was on the cusp of joining the Top 25. The Lutes are still ranked No. 3 in the West Region behind Trinity University (No. 5 nationally) and the University of Texas-Tyler (No. 13 nationally), and have consistenly been recognized for their play over the season. The Lutes have entered the D3soccer.com top 25 as well. The Lutes are ranked No. 25 in that poll, making it the first time this season the Lutes have been ranked in two different polls. To see the complete NSCAA poll, click here. For the complete D3soccer.com poll, click here.
MONUMENTAL MAESTRO: In the Lutes' 2-1 victory over the Whitman Missionaries, senior Surafel Wodajo tallied his 12th and 13th assists of the 2011 season, tying the single season assist record set by PLU legend Jay Pettit in 2003. Wodajo, who earlier this season broke the PLU career assist record, ranks second in NCAA Division III with his 13 assists and is poised to continue his brilliant passing as the season begins to close. Wodajo leads the NWC in assists, with the next closest sitting at seven total assists for the season.
PLU 2, WHITMAN 1: Pacific Lutheran retained its one-game lead in the Northwest Conference men's soccer standings on Sunday, rallying from a deficit to take a 2-1 win over the visiting Whitman Missionaries. The Missionaries entered the match with a 5-3 conference mark and with a hope of staying in the conference title chase. They came out strong, putting PLU under heavy pressure that was rewarded 14:32 into the match when Leland Matthaeus ran onto Jed Jacobson's long pass behind the PLU defense, fought off a challenge, and then finished to the lower left corner of the goal. The goal was the third of the season for the Whitman sophomore forward. The hosts got back into the match, returning the pressure on the Whitman defense, and they came close a couple of times before finally knotting the score at 43:37 on frosh defender Kevin Wien's header from Surafel Wodajo's corner kick. For Wien, it was his second goal of the season, both coming on headers. The halftime stats showed a close match with the Lutes holding a 5-4 advantage in shots and both teams with one corner kick. In the second half, however, PLU gained the majority of the possession and put pressure on Whitman goalkeeper Michael Bathurst and his defense. Pacific Lutheran almost took the lead 53 minutes into the match, but sophomore midfielder Giancarlo Santoro's shot hit the top of the crossbar and bounced over. PLU was finally rewarded at 68:00 when Santoro scored the game-winning goal. Spencer Augustin started the play on the right wing, turning the corner and passing to Wodajo, whose shot was turned away on a diving save by Bathurst. Santoro, following up on the back side, easily slotted home for his first tally of the season. PLU had one more great chance about 72 minutes in when Chad Kearns flicked Wodajo's corner past Bathurst, only to see Whitman midfielder Junpei Tsuji clear the ball off the line. Whitman refused to go down quietly and had several decent looks in the waning minutes. Matthaeus shot high over the bar from a tough angle at about 12 yards, and Cooper Schumacher had a couple of headers go wide of the left post. PLU ended up with a 17-10 advantage in shots, though both teams had five on goal. Bathurst finished with two saves, while PLU keeper Joe Rayburn was called on to make four saves. The Lutes ended up with a 4-3 margin in corner kicks.
PLU 1, WHITWORTH 0: Spencer Augustin scored his 12th goal of the season and Pacific Lutheran played scrappy defense for 90 minutes as the Lutes took sole possession of first place in Northwest Conference men's soccer with a 1-0 win Saturday over visiting Whitworth, which fell one game back in the standings. Saturday's match, played in front of 250 fans on an overcast day with temperatures in the low 50s, was nearly a carbon copy of a contest played between these two conference powers in Spokane on Sept. 25. The Lutes also won that match by a 1-0 score, getting a first-half goal from Augustin and then withstanding Whitworth's direct assault on their goal. Augustin, the leading scorer in the conference and among the national leaders with 12 tallies in as many matches, got the only goal at 30:48, finishing off a nice buildup by the Lutes. Giancarlo Santoro moved the ball inside, then fed Chad Kearns making a run to the outside. Kearns sent in a low cross from near the left touchline, and Augustin ran onto it and hit a one-touch shot past Whitworth keeper Brian Sherpe. Trailing 1-0 as the clock ticked down in the second half, the Pirates pushed forward for the equalizing goal. But while they put pressure on the Lutes, they got few really good looks at goal. That also opened Whitworth up to counter attacks, and Sherpe was called on for diving saves three times in the final 25 minutes of the match. PLU ended up with a 10-7 advantage in shots, and it also put seven of its efforts on goal, resulting in six saves by Sherpe. Lutes goalie Joe Rayburn was officially credited with one save.
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