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Battle of Unbeatens - And More - This Weekend

Giancarlo Santoro (18)
Giancarlo Santoro (18)

LUTES HEAD EAST: Pacific Lutheran and Whitworth, two of the three men's soccer teams without a loss in Northwest Conference matches this season, will face each other at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in a key early season clash. That is only the first of two tough road contests the Lutes face this weekend as they make their annual trip to the eastern side of the state. At 2:30 p.m. Sunday, PLU faces a very tough Whitman College team that in recent years has given the Lutes fits.

FOLLOW THE ACTION: Whitworth will stream live video and provide live stats of the match against PLU. You can access the video stream and live stats here.

CONFERENCE UNBEATENS: As mentioned, PLU and Whitworth are two of three teams with perfect 4-0 records in Northwest Conference matches. The other team is Puget Sound, which also makes the trek east to face the Whits. The Loggers and the Lutes trade opponents on Sunday, PLU playing Whitman in Walla Walla and UPS going against Whitworth in Spokane. On Friday, Oct. 5, the Lutes will host Puget Sound at 5 p.m. - under the lights at PLU's new East Field. That game marks the halfway point in the conference schedule, and by that point it figures that at least one of those teams will have a leg up on their opponents. Then again, the race for the conference championship is usually very close and often doesn't come down until the final week of the season. There is, after all, plenty of soccer to be played.

ABOUT WHITWORTH: The Pirates are off to a tremendous start this season with a 7-0-1 overall record, and they are ranked No. 11 in the NSCAA/Continental Tire NCAA Division III Men's National Poll. They opened with a 0-0 tie against Augsburg - a team that beat PLU 2-1 - and since then have rattled off seven consecutive victories. Whitworth doesn't score a lot with only 10 goals in their eight matches, but they defend as well extremely well, allowing just one goal in those eight contests. With a 0.12 goals against average and shutouts in 88 percent of their matches, the Bucs have the best defensive statistics of any NCAA men's soccer team, at all levels. Whitworth's defensive numbers are the team's best since 2001 when the Pirates led all of NCAA Division III with a 0.59 goals against average for the season. Goal keeper Kyle Novak has played 695 of the team's 740 minutes this season and he has yet to allow a goal. Not only has he been stingy, the players in front of him have made his job much easier as Novak has had to make just 14 saves all season. On the other end of the field, the goal scoring comes from defender Will Wren with three goals and an assist for seven points, and from forward Robby Ubben and midfielder Samuel Engle with two goals apiece. Whitworth head coach Sean Bushey, a close friend to PLU head coach John Yorke, is in his 17th season at the Spokane school.

THE PLU VS. WHITWORTH SERIES: Whitworth has the advantage in the all-time series between the two with 23 wins compared to 21 for PLU. The teams have played seven ties. Over the last 10 matches the Lutes are 5-4-1, including a recent string of three consecutive shutout victories. Last year, the Lutes took a pair of 1-0 decisions from the Bucs, and those wins proved decisive in PLU taking the automatic berth in the NCAA Division III postseason after the two squads tied for the conference title with 12-2 records.

ABOUT WHITMAN: The Missionaries are 3-5-2 overall and 1-2-1 in the conference. Forward Leland Matthaeus has 10 points this season on four goals and two assists, and he leads all conference players with 31 shots. Keeper Michael Bathurst has a 1.28 goals against average and is third in the conference with 34 saves.

THE PLU VS. WHITMAN SERIES: While the Lutes have a solid 42-8-1 all-time record in the series, the Missionaries have won three of the last eight matches, including both contests played in 2008. Last year's matches were close with the Lutes winning 3-2 in overtime and 2-1.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: PLU junior forward Derek Johnson scored two goals against Willamette and added an assist versus Linfield and as a result earned Northwest Conference Men's Soccer Offensive Player of the Week honors. Johnson, who came to PLU out of nearby Franklin Pierce High School, took over the PLU team goal-scoring lead with his fourth and fifth tallies of the campaign. Add in his three assists this season and Johnson also paces the squad this season with 13 points.

PLU 3, LINFIELD 0: The Lutes peppered the Linfield net, launching 24 attempts at goal over the course of the afternoon in beating the Wildcats, 3-0, last Saturday in McMinnville. Those efforts didn't pay off until the 26th minute when a Derek Johnson cross across the penalty area was poked down by Jeff Piaquadio to the feet of Brenden Cohen, who slotted his third goal of the season past Linfield keeper Scott Goodman. Piaquadio scored one of his own before the half, floating unmarked to the far post before heading a Shane Gutierrez cross into the back of the net. The second half saw the Lutes continue their dominance, with Linfield failing to register a single shot. In the 86th minute, freshman Sean Rigney put the game beyond doubt, netting his first goal of the year off a through ball from Johnson. Joe Rayburn registered three saves in his third clean sheet of the season and the Lutes' defense did not concede any corners in the match.

PLU 2, WILLAMETTE 1: Derek Johnson scored two goals in the final 11 minutes of the match as Pacific Lutheran rallied past Willamette, 2-1, last Sunday afternoon in Salem, Ore. The Bearcats opened the scoring at 11:13 when Tyler Yates notched his second goal of the campaign, beating PLU keeper Joe Rayburn from about eight yards out. Trevor Jensen started the play with a pass to Erik Kaufman, who sent the ball to Yates for the finish. That goal held up for most of the match, but Pacific Lutheran's second half siege of Willamette's defense, and keeper Brayden Calder, finally paid off at 79:04 when Tyler Bennett passed to Johnson, who netted his fourth goal of the season. The Lutes pressed for the go-ahead goal and it came at 85:54 when Emmanuel Amarh sent a ball to Johnson, who gave his team the lead. "We were able to come out in the second half and move the ball a lot better," Johnson said. "Emmanuel did a ton of work, G (Giancarlo Santoro) did a ton of work up there, and we were just able to find it." The goals were reward for a second half that saw Pacific Lutheran out-shoot Willamette, 8-2, on the way to a 15-8 advantage for the game. "We felt like once we got that first one that the second one would come because we were putting a lot of pressure on them in the second half," PLU head coach John Yorke said. Calder finished with seven saves, and his defense cleared a Brendan Cohen header off the line, as PLU put nine of its 15 shot attempts on frame. Another effort by Shane Gutierrez in between the two PLU goals hit off the Willamette crossbar. Rayburn finished with two saves for Pacific Lutheran, which also enjoyed a 9-6 advantage in corner kicks.

LUCKY SEVEN: With Jeff Piaquadio and Sean Rigney making their debuts on the score sheet last weekend, the Lutes now have seven different goal scorers through nine games. "It's a different guy each game. I'm happy with the way we're finding goals. That's what we need to do to win games," said PLU head coach John Yorke.

- PLU -