Lutes Face Last Hurdle Before NCAA Tourney
THIS WEEK: Before the Pacific Lutheran University men's soccer team can depart for the NCAA Division III National Tournament, it must face one final test in the form of it's arch rivals, the University of Puget Sound Loggers. After cliniching at least a share of the Northwest Conference crown this past Sunday with a 3-0 win against George Fox, the Lutes will have their hands full as they prepare for a Logger team that would like nothing more than to spoil the Lutes' party on the final day of the regular season. The match will kickoff Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at the PLU soccer field.
GETTING TO KNOW THE LOGGERS: After losing only one starter to graduation from 2010, the Loggers have been able to find consistent form in NWC play to stay in the top half of the standings this season. At 9-4 in NWC matches, 10-6 overall, the Loggers are currently tied for third in the table on 27 points with Whitman College, but with just one game left cannot take over second place from Whitworth University (33 points). The Loggers finished fourth last season after going 7-4-3 in the NWC schedule. Leading the charge for the Loggers this season are a pair of sophomore forwards. Andrew White has scored six goals and added five assists, placing him sixth in the NWC in points. Vincent McCluskey has tallied five goals and one assist to make a dangerous combination up top for UPS. The Loggers, known in the past for the staunch defensive record, have Chris McDonald manning the net and holding an impressive 1.06 goals against average this season. In the first match between the sides this year, the Lutes came back from an early defecit to score four unanswered and take the match 4-2 at UPS's Baker Stadium. The win took the Lutes' all-time record to 21-27-5 against the Loggers. With a win on Saturday, the Lutes would take the NWC crown outright, and hold Tacoma bragging rights until next September.
TOURNAMENT BOUND: The Lutes have made the NCAA Division III National Tournament for the first time in program history. Since joining the NCAA in 1996, the Lutes have come within one game of clinching a bid on several different occasions, just for it to slip away in the final weeks. The Lutes made the NAIA National Tournament in 1992, but the feat had not been accomplished by the men's soccer program in NCAA until this season. With a stellar NWC record this season, the Lutes have made sure that no one but themselves can determine their fate come tournament time. With the makeup of the West Region this season, the Lutes will likely travel to California or Texas for their first round matchup. Potential opponents could be the University of Redlands (Calif.), Chapman University (Calif.), Claremont-MS (Calif.), University of Texas-Dallas, University of Texas-Tyler, or Trinity University (Texas). The Lutes are the first team in the nation to punch their ticket for the tourney, with many of the conferences nationwide finishing its conferences tournaments in the coming days. The selection of what team the Lutes will face will take place on Monday, November 7.
NATIONALLY KNOWN: For the fifth consecutive week, the Lutes are ranked in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Top 25 rankings. The Lutes dropped from No. 19 to No. 20 despite winning their 11th straight match and clinching the NWC title this past weekend. The Lutes are still ranked No. 3 in the West Region behind Trinity University (No. 4 nationally) and the University of Redlands (No. 15 nationally), and have consistenly been recognized for their play over the season. The Lutes have moved up in the D3soccer.com poll, as well, going from No. 21 last week to No. 19 with their two wins this past weekend. The Lutes are now ranked in two seperate polls for three weeks straight. To see the complete NSCAA poll, click here. For the complete D3soccer.com poll, click here.
PLU 3, GEORGE FOX 0: Pacific Lutheran punched its ticket to the NCAA Division III men's soccer postseason tournament and also assured itself of at least a share of the Northwest Conference title on Sunday afternoon with a 3-0 victory over the host George Fox Bruins. The Lutes added to their PLU men's soccer record with their 11th consecutive win, and at the same time set a new single-season mark with their 15th victory of the campaign against just two defeats. Now with a 12-1 record in conference play, the Lutes assured themselves of no worse than a share of the NWC crown with one match remaining, that a home contest next Saturday against Puget Sound. Only Whitworth, which is 11-2, could tie PLU, but the Lutes have the tiebreaker over the Pirates based on a pair of 1-0 wins in head-to-head play. For the second straight game, senior forward Chad Kearns notched two goals and an assist, while at the same time the defense was recording its third consecutive shutout. Kearns and Surafel Wodajo teamed up to put the Lutes on the scoreboard in the 26th minute, but instead of the usual combination of Wodajo to Kearns, it was Kearns feeding the senior midfielder for his third goal of the season. The assist was the seventh for Kearns. PLU dominated the first half statistics with 15 shots and six corner kicks to just two of each for George Fox, but Wodajo's goal was all it could manage against keeper Elliott Davis, who had five saves in the opening 45 minutes. On the other end of the field, the PLU defense and keeper Joe Rayburn had a couple of close calls, but by the break Rayburn had not been called on to make a save. The match opened up significantly in the final 45 minutes with PLU managing just one shot more than George Fox, 10-9. But it was the Lutes, and in particular Kearns, who made the most of their opportunities to put the game away. Kearns, the 2010 Northwest Conference Offensive Player of the Year, got his 12th in the 62nd minute, taking a pass fromGiancarlo Santoro and slotting home from about five yards out. Less than a minute later he intercepted a goal kick by Davis and scored for his 13th goal of the season and the 41st of his career. With that tally, he supplanted Mark Stockwell (1981-84) and his 40 goals for third place on the PLU career goal-scoring list.
PLU 6, PACIFIC (ORE.) 0: Chad Kearns scored two goals and added an assist Friday night, leading a goal-scoring clinic by Pacific Lutheran in a 6-0 shutout of Pacific in Northwest Conference men's soccer action at Lincoln Park Stadium. Kearns connected on both of his goals in the first half and assisted on a third in the 52nd minute to pace the league-leading Lutes (14-2-0, 11-1-0 NWC) to their 10th consecutive victory and their sixth shutout of the season. With the victory, PLU moves within one win of clinching at least a share of the the program's first conference title since 1992. The Lutes play at last-place George Fox on Sunday and could wrap up the title, and with it the NWC's automatic berth to the NCAA Division III playoffs. PLU outshot the Boxers 16-5, putting 11 of those on goal. The Boxers were limited to just two shots on goal, one in each half. Kearns needed just 21 seconds to put the Lutes on the board. Breaking away from midfield, Kearns worked his way quickly around two Pacific defenders at the top of the 18-yard box and punched in from eight yards out for the early PLU lead. It was Kearns making it a 2-0 Lutes lead in the 14th minute thanks to some brilliant passing. Spencer Augustin fed the ball into the near side of the 18-yard box to Surafel Wodajo. His touch pass found a streaking Kearns through the penalty area for the quick strike from just three yards away. Augustin, the conference's leading goal scorer, found the net in the 23rd minute. It was Wodajo making the assist again, feed Augustin at the top of the 18-yard box. Pacific goalkeeper Michael Summers charged to meet the ball, but Augustin poked it to Summers' right and punched in at the goal line to secure the Lutes' 3-0 halftime lead. Pacific was limited to just two shots in the opening 45 minutes, both by Mark Watson. His best opportunity came in the 12th minute but PLU goalie Joe Rayburn met him for the close-range save. A third Kearns goal was denied in the 52nd minute. Another set of touch passes by Augustin and Shane Gutierrez found Kearns just off of the far post, with Summers diving for the save. The combination passes found the net a minute later, with Giancarlo Santoro and Kearns connecting to find Augustin in the same area. This time, Augustin put the ball in the far corner for a 4-0 lead. The goals were the 18th and 19th of the season for Augustin, tied Brian Gardner (1989) for second on the single-season list by the record 21 by Brian Stockwell (1981). Kearns now has 11 goals and six assists this season, and Wodajo added to his single-season and career records with his two assists. Lucas McCallum padded the PLU even further in the 73rd minute when he tapped a shot off Summers on a diving save attempt. McCallum followed the ball towards the far post where he scored uncontested from five yards out. McCallum then added one more breakaway goal in the 88th minute, scoring of a long assist by Derek Johnson. McCallum has scored seven goals for the Lutes, who have now tallied a school-record 52 in just 16 matches this season. The former record was 50 goals scored in 20 games by the 1990 team.
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