Written by Student Assistant Jake Bilyeu
TACOMA, Wash. – A series of untimely results conspired against the Pacific Lutheran University men's soccer team on Saturday afternoon, with the Northwest Conference Co-Champion Lutes stumbling 1-0 to the University of Puget Sound to close out the regular season.
PLU's setback coupled by wins from both Willamette University and Whitman College gave Willamette a share of the NWC crown and more importantly, the league's automatic qualifying bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament.
Both defenses limited the shot opportunities of their opponents, but it was the Loggers (10-6-1, 8-5-1) who made the most of their limited shots. Luke Murdock took a shot from 18 yards out that found its way into the back of the net in the 24th minute, giving the Loggers a 1-0 lead in what proved to be the lone score of the day.
The Lutes (11-5-3, 9-3-2) had a few chances to even the game late in the first half, but came up empty. The Lutes turned up the intensity in the second half, and it led to scoring opportunities for Levi Woolley and Rio Alcorta, but none of the shots managed to score. The Loggers ultimately managed to hold the Lutes off and secure the 1-0 win.
"Today was not our best performance, and we picked the wrong day to have a bad day," head coach John Yorke said. "I would like to say thank you to Bennett Bugbee and Eddie Na for their commitment to this program. Both will have a very positive lasting impact on this program."
While the setback doesn't provide the ideal ending to the Lutes' regular season, they still finished the year on an impressive run, going 8-1-1 in their final 10 games to earn a share of the Northwest Conference title.
Additional Lute highlights include Eddie Na leading the NWC in goals with 16 and points with 34, while setting the all-time Lute career record for goals with 50. Joe Sammartino also tied for fourth in the NWC in goals scored this season, while Bennett Bugbee finished tied for second in assists with six.
The Lutes also scored the second most goals in the NWC with 32, while allowing the second least amount of goals, only giving up 17. The Lutes maintained their strong, constricting defense throughout the year with the help of RJ Noll, who led the NWC in saves with 69.