THIS WEEKEND: Pacific Lutheran will enjoy two consecutive home matches this weekend as they prepare to take on Whitman this Saturday on the East Field at noon followed by Whitworth at noon on Sunday.
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES: The Lutes find themselves in a tie for fourth place at the midway point of the 2012 season, and off to one of their best starts in recent years. Freshman forward Lauren Larson leads the Lutes with seven goals on the season and is second in the conference behind Linfield's Emily Fellows, who is pacing all goal scoring with 12 on the year. PLU freshman goalkeeper Marisa Gonzalez, along with help from her defense has posted a 0.91 goals against average and leads the NWC is total saves with 61. Sophomore midfielder Hannah Bush is also still tied for first in NWC play with four assists thus far this season.
GETTING TO KNOW WHITMAN: Just two weeks ago, the Lutes battled the Missionaries to a 0-0 draw in Walla Walla despite holding off 26 shots from the home side to the Lutes' 11 attempts on goal. Whitman has not been afraid to pull the trigger this season, as they are second behind Linfield College with 177 shots as a team. Senior midfielder Jaclyn Rudd leads the Missionaries in scoring with 4 goals of a team high 44 shots. At the halfway point of the season, the Missionaries find themselves at 2-5-2 and alone in seventh place in the Northwest Conference.
ROUND TWO WITH THE BUCS: Whitworth is off to a hot start in 2012, pacing the conference lead with 20 points off a 6-1-2 record. Freshman forward Tiara Pajimola leads the pirates with seven goals on the season. In the last matchup with the Lutes in Spokane, an 89th minute score by senior midfielder Mimi Granlund off a cross from sophomore Blake Warner knotted the game at two goals apiece as regulation expired. The match finished up at a 2-2 draw with the host Pirates enjoying a 16-9 shot advantage while the Lutes earned six corners to the Bucs four.
PLU 1, GEORGE FOX 0 (2OTs): Lauren Larson hit a left-footed rocket from just outside the penalty area into the far side netting in the second overtime on Saturday afternoon, giving Pacific Lutheran a 1-0 Northwest Conference women's soccer victory over the visiting George Fox Bruins at East Field.
Larson's shot, and another staunch effort by goalkeeper Marisa Gonzalez and her defense, resulted in PLU's first conference victory of the season. The Lutes are now 1-1-5 in the NWC and 3-1-5 overall. George Fox remained winless in seven conference matches and is 1-8-2 overall. Defender Brenna Sussman started the play, passing the ball to Larson, who received it with her back to the goal. Spinning on her defender, she struck the ball past diving Bruins goalkeeper Alyssa Montero and into the goal. The stunning shot started a frenzied PLU celebration with Larson buried at the bottom of a pile of her teammates.
Most of the match was played in the middle of the field as neither offense really got hold of the match. Pacific Lutheran finished with 11 shots compared to seven for George Fox. Both goalkeepers ended up with three saves, and PLU had a 6-4 margin in corner kicks.
The shutout was the fourth of the season for Gonzalez, PLU's freshman keeper.
PLU 3, WILLAMETTE 2 (2OTs): Blake Warner scored the tying goal in regulation and blasted home the winner with just under three minutes left in the second overtime as Pacific Lutheran topped Willamette, 3-2, in a Northwest Conference women's soccer match played Sunday afternoon at Sparks Field.
Warner, a sophomore midfielder from Wheat Ridge, Colo., took a shot from about 23 yards out that beat Willamette keeper Nicole Price. The goal gave PLU its second consecutive win in double overtime after the team had played five conference ties earlier this season. The Lutes are now 2-1-5 in the conference and 4-1-5 overall, while Willamette falls to 2-5-1 in the NWC and 4-7-1 overall. Lauren Larson, the goal-scoring hero in Saturday's 1-0 double overtime home win against George Fox, got the Lutes on the board 6:01 into the contest, taking a pass from Brenna Sussman and firing home from about 13 yards. Sussman had also provided the pass that led to the game winner against George Fox.
Willamette replied with two goals in a four-minute span of the first half. First, Ariel Wilson took a pass from Ashland Bernard and beat PLU keeper Marisa Gonzalez from close range at 20:10, and just 4:02 later Malia Simpson scored from about eight yards out. The goals came with the run of play as Willamette took 13 first half shots compared to four for the Lutes. Trailing 2-1 entering the second half, PLU tied it at 57:49 when Warner's corner kick went directly into the goal at the near post.
The host Bearcats maintained their statistical dominance in the half, getting off 10 shots to five for the Lutes, but the game nonetheless went into extra time. Willamette had two shots in the first OT period, forcing a save from Gonzalez, and it was the Lutes that had the only two attempts of the final extra session, with Warner getting the match winner.
Willamette ended up with 25 shots to 12 for the Lutes, though corner kicks were even at five apiece. Gonzalez finished with eight saves compared to four for Price.