Written by Student Assistant Jake Bilyeu
TACOMA, Wash. – It was a memorable afternoon for the Pacific Lutheran University men's soccer team on Sunday, celebrating its two seniors with a 4-1 win over Linfield College to secure at least a share of the Northwest Conference title. Both seniors made a big impact in their final game at East Field with Bennett Bugbee collecting two assists while Eddie Na tallied two scores to shatter the program record for career goals.
PLU's (11-4-3, 9-2-2 NWC) victory coupled with a Willamette University 1-0 setback to the University of Puget Sound, gives the Lutes a three-point lead on the Bearcats with one game left to play and control of its own destiny with a Lute win or tie next Saturday against UPS guaranteeing the Lutes the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament.
Fresh off of yesterday's huge win, the Lutes continued used their momentum to their advantage in Sunday's contest. Joe Sammartino gave the Lutes the first lead of the game, taking a pass from Bennett Bugbee, the team's assist leader, to score in the 17th minute. Both sides remained scoreless through the first half, but Sammartino added his second goal off of a Bugbee pass in the 58th minute to double the Lute lead.
The Wildcats (2-14-1, 0-12-1 NWC) weren't going to roll over that easy, though, capitalizing on a Lute yellow card to convert a penalty kick in the 75th minute to pull within a goal.
Then, just as he did yesterday, Eddie Na responded, scoring just under two minutes later thanks to an assist from David Opanasevych to push the lead back to two goals. With that score, Na tied the school record for career goals, but he wouldn't remain tied for long. Na scored another goal in the 87th minute, after Jonathan Cano Dominguez flew past his defender to set the shot up. Na took an excellent pass to create an equally excellent and impressive goal to put the Lutes up 4-1 and to move into first place in Lute history with 50 goals scored in his career.
"It definitely feels much better for us to be in control of our own destiny," head coach John Yorke said. "We know that next week is still going to be difficult, but we're going to prepare like we have all season and give our best effort."
The Lutes final home game was not played without fun. Many Lutes who haven't received much playing time were able to get in on the act in Sunday's game, and the team was loving every minute of it.
"There's a lot of talent on this team, and so it's difficult for some of our talented guys to get playing time," Yorke said. "It says a lot about our deep reserve guys when they can come into any game and still make a positive impact."
As the team celebrated its two seniors, one of their star juniors provided an emphatic performance in what has now become a long line of consistently great games. After starting the season in an uncertain position within the team, Joe Sammartino has emerged as one of the team's leaders, and his two scores today showed why that's the case. Still, like anyone else, Sammartino is thankful for the time that seniors Bugbee and Na have spent with the team in their four years.
"My favorite memory of Bennett is him tackling me at UPS after I crossed the ball to him and he scored to help us get the win," Sammartino said. "As for Eddie, today would definitely be my best memory of him, because it's so great to see him get the record."
The Lutes are hoping Na's record breaking performance won't be the only long-lasting memory they form late in the season. They'll head across town next Saturday to face Puget Sound at noon with the hopes of advancing to postseason play.