FINAL HOME MATCHES: With wins pretty much a must every time out, Pacific Lutheran closes out the home portion of its 2012 season with matches against Willamette on Saturday and Linfield on Sunday. Kickoff for both matches is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. at PLU's East Field.
WHAT'S AT STAKE: After losing a heart-breaking 1-0 decision to league-leading Whitworth last Sunday, the Lutes face five must-win matches to close out the regular season. Mathematically, the Lutes could get by with less than five wins and all 15 points, but it is unlikely that the Whitworth Pirates will drop very many points over the closing weeks. The Northwest Conference standings show Whitworth with 23 points on a 7-0-2 record, followed by the Lutes with 19 points on a 6-2-1 mark. Puget Sound is third with 16 points, 4-1-4, in the NWC. Pacific Lutheran needs to pick up at least five points on the Pirates, who have the tie-breaker of the Lutes based on a pair of one-goal wins in their head-to-head contests this season. Whitworth has home matches this weekend against conference celler dwellers Pacific and George Fox, and then plays its final three matches on the road against Willamette, Linfield and Whitman. PLU's final three are also on the road as they play at Pacific, George Fox and Puget Sound.
SENIOR DAY: A total of five seniors will play their final home games this weekend - midfielders Shane Gutierrez, Brenden Cohen and John Thompson and defenders Mark Lee and Paul Boscole. All of the players have spent their four-year collegiate careers at PLU.
ABOUT WILLAMETTE: PLU has a 33-16-6 all-time series lead over Willamette, with wins in 14 of the past 15 meetings. That one Willamette win came last year when the Bearcats came to Parkland and handing the Lutes a stunning 2-1 defeat. That was one of only two losses suffered by 2011 NWC champion Pacific Lutheran. Willamette is in fourth place in the NWC standings with 13 points on a 4-4-1 record, and it is 7-6-1 overall. Yazan Yishmeh is the team's leading goal scorer with five goals, and he is tied with Trevor Jensen for the points lead with 12. Jensen has his 12 points on three goals and six assists. Austin Jacobson has four goals for the Bearcats. Goalkeeper Braden Calder has a 1.22 goals against average, and Willamette as a team has scored 19 goals while allowing 25.
WILLAMETTE THE LAST TIME: Derek Johnson scored two goals in the final 11 minutes of the match as Pacific Lutheran rallied past Willamette, 2-1, when the teams played Sept. 23 in Salem, Ore. The host 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. 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. 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.
ABOUT LINFIELD: Under the direction of first-year head coach Chuck Bechtol, the Wildcats are 6-7-0 overall and 4-5-0 in the conference, which put them in fifth place in the eight-team circuit. Pacific Lutheran has a 29-19-1 lead in the all-time series with Linfield, including a recent run of 10 wins in the past 11 matches. The Lutes handled the 'Cats twice last year, taking a 4-0 win at home and an 8-0 victory in McMinnville. Jake Baker leads the Wildcats with six goals and 14 points, and Domenico Del prete has four goals. Scott Goodman (2.29 gaa) and Grant Loriaux (1.33 gaa) have split time between the pipes. Linfield has scored 20 goals and allowed 24.
LINFIELD THE LAST TIME: Pacific Lutheran defeated Linfield, 3-0, in the first meeting between the clubs on Sept. 23 in McMinnville, Ore. The Lutes peppered the Wildcat net, launching 24 attempts at goal over the course of the afternoon. Those efforts finally paid off in 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. It only took 3:11 after getting off the mark for Piaquadio to score one of his own, floating unmarked to the far post before heading a Shane Gutierrez cross into the back of the net. The goal was the junior center back's first-ever in a PLU uniform. The second half saw the Lutes continue their dominance, with Linfield failing to register a single shot. Freshman Sean Rigney put the game beyond doubt in the 86th minute, netting his first goal of the year off a through ball from Johnson. Joe Rayburn registered three saves and the Lutes' defense did not concede any corners in the match.
PLU 1, WHITMAN 0 (OT): Derek Johnson hit a drive from about 15 yards out on the left side, and the ball bent away from lunging Whitman keeper Michael Bathurst and into the far side netting to give PLU the 1-0 win over Whitman in the 100th minute. The winning goal came after Shane Gutierrez sent a ball through the defense to Johnson on the left wing. He touched the ball to his right foot to find room against the Missionaries defense and uncorked his winning shot. PLU played outstanding offensive soccer in the first half but could not find a way to get the ball past Bathurst, who came up with outstanding saves in one-on-one situations against Giancarlo Santoro and Emmanuel Amarh. By the end of the first half the Lutes had taken 13 shots and forced Bathurst to make 11 saves, which is how many he had in the game. Whitman, meanwhile, had managed just four shots against Pacific Lutheran keeper Joe Rayburn and his defense. The second period was quite different, however, as the Missionaries had most of the play, as evidenced by their 8-3 advantage in shots and by the fact that their defense kept the Lutes from forcing Bathurst into another save. Johnson had the only shot in the extra period, and it proved to be the match winner. The Lutes took 10 corner kicks, seven in the first half, to six for the Missionaries.
WHITWORTH 1, PLU 0: Samuel Engle intercepted a back pass and beat PLU keeper Joe Rayburn for the game's only goal in the 38th minute as No. 10-ranked Whitworth beat the Lutes, 1-0, last Sunday at East Field. Engle, who scored on a bicycle kick in Whitworth's 3-2 victory over the Lutes two weeks ago in Spokane, scored his fourth goal of the season by taking advantage of a PLU defensive mistake. Pacific Lutheran had the majority of the play, which was reflected in a 12-8 advantage in shots. The Lutes forced six saves from Kyle Novak, though none of them really tested the keeper who leads the conference in goals against average and shutouts. Novak's clean sheet today was his 11th of the season. The Lutes had an excellent early chance when Derek Johnson nearly scored a goal similar to the one he tallied in Saturday's 1-0 win over Whitman. This time, his first half try bent just wide of the right post.
COACH JOHN YORKE SAYS: "The guys are down a bit and we are trying to re-motivate them to get them focused on what lies ahead and not what is behind us. At this point, we need help from some other teams in our conference to steal some points from Whitworth and we need to be good enough to do our job and win our remaining games. It is still possible and my expectation is that the guys will put themselves into the position that if Whitworth does slip up we will be there to claim the NWC. As I have said before, this is a pretty young team. They have the potential to be one of the best groups ever to come through here but need to grow in the areas of leadership, discipline, and mental toughness. I believe that they can and will."
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