Written by Student Assistant Jake Bilyeu
TACOMA, Wash. – The Pacific Lutheran University men's soccer team returns home after splitting last weekend in Oregon, hosting Whitworth University and Whitman College for its first Northwest Conference games at East Field this season. After an opening conference weekend full of ups and downs, the Lutes hope to put together two complete games to remain unbeaten at home this season.
The Lutes (3-3-1, 1-1 NWC) showed the best parts of their game in the conference opener at Linfield College, shutting out the Wildcats in a 2-0 win. However, PLUs struggle with consistency reared its head in its second match, as they allowed two second-half goals in a 2-1 setback to Willamette University last Sunday.
"Our soccer when we are at our best, our learning of the game and each other, continues to get better," head coach John Yorke said. "The whole season is a process of getting better, and we're always trying to quicken it, but we've just gotta be patient sometimes."
The Lutes have never taken any conference game for granted, but that couldn't be truer this weekend. Other than the Lutes' opponents last week, every NWC team stands at 1-1 after week one. The Lutes have a great chance to distance themselves from the pack this weekend.
"Records mean nothing in the NWC, we're always playing difficult competition," Yorke said. "Those games make us better and more prepared for future NWC opponents, and I expect nothing but the very best from our opponents this weekend."
Joe Sammartino is one of the emerging Lutes that could provide crucial plays in the team's contests this weekend. He's already scored three goals this year, doubling his point total from last season, and he hopes to continue mastering his role with the goal of helping the Lutes experience success this weekend.
"We need to focus on team goals rather than individual goals," Sammartino said. "We have to bring everyone up, and that means that the older guys have to stay on track, because we know how tough these games are."
While the focus will be on the field this weekend, Sammartino also has his sights set on the Mathlete program at Perry G. Keithley Middle School, where he'll be tapping into his Applied Physics studies to help local students. Sammartino hasn't let his busy schedule distract from his soccer time, though.
"I've got a full slate of credits, so I'm always focusing on the moment and trying to use good time management," Sammartino said. "I'm thinking about homework outside of soccer, and staying focused on the field when I'm here."
The Lutes hope to take care of the Whits this weekend. They'll take the field at noon on both Saturday and Sunday.
Sept. 23: PLU vs. Whitworth at East Field (12 PM)
Series History: The Lutes and Pirates have met on 61 occasions with Whitworth holding a 30-23-8 advantage in the all-time series. Last season the two teams split the season series, both winning in overtime on their home fields. The Lutes needed double overtime to down Whitworth 3-2 on Sept. 25 but the Pirates ex¬acted revenge on Oct. 22, coming away with the 2-1 win in Spokane.
About the Pirates: Whitworth (3-4, 1-1 NWC) hits the road after splitting a four-game homestand in Spokane. The Pirates fell 2-1 in double overtime to Carroll College on Sept. 10 before rebounding the following day with a 4-1 win over Eastern Or¬egon University.
Whitworth opened NWC action last weekend with a 3-2 setback to Pacific University before blasting George Fox University 4-0 last Sunday.
Jonah Snyder leads the Pirates in both goals (three) and points (eight) while Austin Cassity has tallied a team-leading five assists on the young season.
Jesus Nunez is the Pirates primary keeper, logging 510 minutes in goal and owning a 1.41 goals against aver¬age.
Sept. 24: PLU vs. Whitman at East Field (12 PM)
Series History: The Lutes and Blues have battled 61 times on the soccer pitch with PLU owning a 49-11-1 edge in the all-time series. The two teams split the series in 2016 with Whitman stealing a 3-1 win on East Field before the Lutes returned the favor with a 3-2 victory in Walla Walla.
About the Blues: Whitman (2-5, 1-1 NWC) busted out of a three-game skid last Sunday, steamrolling Pacific 4-0. Prior to the win, the Blues has suffered setbacks at the hands of Rutgers University-Newark (1-0), Drew University (3-2), and George Fox (2-1).
While eight Blues have scored a goal this season, Noah Cavanaugh is the lone Whitman player with multiple goals, having found the back of the net twice on the young season. Gabe Jacobson leads the team in assists with two while sitting tied with Cavanaugh for the team lead in points (four).
Four keepers have seen action for the Blues with Owen Davis-Bower eating up a majority of minutes. Davis- Bower boasts a 1.21 goals against average with 17 saves in 448 minutes of work.