FOREST GROVE, Ore. – Rain-soaked turf greeted Pacific Lutheran at Lincoln Park Stadium as they traveled to Pacific for the 12th round of the Northwest Conference season, needing a win and help to keep their quickly-diminishing championship hopes alive.
They got both, as it turned out. The Lutes took care of their own business with a 3-2 win over Pacific, and they got help when Willamette took a 3-2 overtime victory from table-leading Whitworth.
With the win and Whitworth's loss, Pacific Lutheran (9-6-2 overall, 8-3-1 NWC) cut the difference to the top of the table to four points, keeping them mathematically alive in the championship chase. Whitworth will clinch the title with either two points or a single PLU draw or loss from the final two matches of the season.
The Lutes came out firing with eight shots in the first half to the Boxers' one. On the stroke of halftime, Emmanuel Amarh bagged his eighth goal of the season by following up on his initial saved shot to tuck in the rebound.
Amarh completed his brace and extended his lead atop the conference goal-scoring leaderboard two minutes after the break. Giancarlo Santoro worked his way into the area from the left side and set up Amarh inside the six-yard box, and he made no mistake with the finish.
Just six minutes later Pacific (4-13 overall, 2-10 NWC) made good on a golden opportunity to pull one back when the center whistled for a penalty kick from the mark. Nick Rudella stepped up to take the spot kick and sent PLU keeper Joe Rayburn the wrong direction, cutting the deficit to one.
In the 55th minute, less than 60 seconds after getting on the scoreboard, the Boxers' efforts at a comeback took a big hit when Luis Quintana was shown a straight red after kicking at defender Kevin Wien after a foul. The Lutes took advantage of the extra space in the 69th minute when Derek Johnson knocked home what would hold up as the game winner.
The Boxers struck back once more 12 minutes later. Nick Rudella headed home his second of the match in the 81st minute off of a Garrick Knowles corner kick. PLU had one final chance to stretch the lead back to two from the penalty mark in the 84th minute, but Pacific goalie Michael Summers was equal to the task, guessing the right way on Shane Gutierrez' effort.
Summers would end the match with seven saves. Rayburn had two saves for the Lutes before being replaced by Sam Watkins, who did not get a save, for the final 15 minutes.
"It was good to get a win," PLU head coach John Yorke said after the match. "This is always a hard place to play for us. It's physical. Overall, I liked our energy, I liked our emotional approach."
The Lutes finished with a 19-7 shot advantage, with 10 on target to the Boxers' five.
PLU finishes the road trip Sunday at George Fox. Kickoff is at 2:30 pm, with "Voice of the Lutes" Landyn Rookard providing a live pre-game show beginning at 2:15 on www.golutes.com.
- PLU -