A SEASON IN REVIEW: Pacific Lutheran concluded one of its more successful conference seasons in recent years and if it's any indication, the best is yet to come. PLU started its season out strong, winning both of its pre-conference matches, the first time since 1998. Throughout the season the Lutes continued to play historically well. Their 2-2 tie against cross-town rivals UPS ended a 27-game winning streak that Puget Sound had over PLU. The Lutes also tied Whitworth, a top team in the Northwest Conference. The Lutes wrapped up the 2012 campaign with two end-of-the-season wins, beating both Willamette and George Fox, 2-0. The recently completed season, the first under new head coach Seth Spidahl, ended with an overall record of 6-5-7, which also marks the first winning season the Lutes have had since 2006. The five losses are also the fewest tallied by the women's program since the 1992 squad finished as conference champions and national championship runner-up with a record of 19-3-2.
SPIDAHL JOINS LUTE SQUAD: Seth Spidahl, technical director for the nationally renowned and locally based Washington Premier Football Club, was named women's soccer head coach and director of soccer at Pacific Lutheran in early February of 2012. "He stood out because of his strong connections to Pacific Northwest youth soccer, and because of the high regard that he has within that community. He is also familiar with PLU and the Northwest Conference, and all of those factors should give him an excellent start in quickly rebuilding the women's soccer program at Pacific Lutheran" PLU Athletic Director Laurie Turner said at the time. In addition to being Washington Premier's technical director since March 2011, Spidahl is the local director for Elite Clubs National League, a 66-club premier-level soccer league in the United States. He coaches two ECNL teams, one of which won a national championship in 2011. A 1994 Pacific Lutheran University graduate and four-year letter winner as a member of the PLU men's soccer team, Spidahl was first assistant coach for the University of Washington men's soccer team from 2001-09. More recently, he was head coach for the Seattle Wolves, later to become Washington Crossfire U23 PDL, from 2009-11. Spidahl replaced former PLU women's soccer head coach Lynnette Buffington, who resigned after five seasons in which she compiled a 24-63-8 overall record, including a 4-13-1 mark in 2011.
LUTES RESPOND WELL TO TOUGH PRE-CONFERENCE OPPONENTS: The Lutes opened up their 2012 regular season on Sept. 7 against visiting Trinity Lutheran College. The game marked the beginning of two eras at Pacific Lutheran. Head coach Seth Spidahl had a winning debut, and that victory came on East Field, the brand new synthetic surface. The contest was the first official match played on East Field, though it had been in use for practice and scrimmages since mid-August. Lauren Larson scored three goals and Hannah Bush added three assists as the Pacific Lutheran women's soccer team took a 4-2 victory over the Eagles. Freshman forward Larson scored her first goal in the fifth minute, adding her second in the 77th, and finishing the scoring in the 85th. Bush, a sophomore midfielder, provided perfect service on Larson's first goal. Junior forward Samantha Benner made it 2-0 in the 11th minute, running onto a through ball from Bush and slamming her shot into the goal. The Eagles got one back in the 19th minute. It was Larson who gave her team a 3-1 advantage, hitting Bush's cross into the back of the net. Trinity got some hope off a a long-range goal in the 84th minute, but Larson put the Lutes back on top by two exactly one minute later. Freshman forward Jamie Hoffman raced onto a ball near the end touch line and crossed it back in front to Larson, who finished off her hat trick. PLU took 17 shots to 13 for Trinity Lutheran, and the Lutes also had a 6-2 advantage in corner kicks. Marissa Gonzalez and Lauren Higgins each played a half in goal for PLU, Higgins notching a pair of saves.
The Lutes then travelled to nearby Kirkland where Jamie Hoffman's shot off the keeper and into the goal gave PLU a 1-0 win over Northwest University. With the win, it marked the first time that the program has won its first two games since the 1998 team. Hoffman, a freshman forward out of Kennedy High School, took a shot from about 10 yards out on the left side. Her blast that hit the opposite post, then bounced off and hit the Northwest keeper in the back of the head before she could react. The ball then ricocheted into the goal. PLU keeper Marisa Gonzalez had seven saves in the match, three of those in the second half. Northwest ended up with a total of 18 shots, 12 of those coming in the first half, with seven of them on goal. The Lutes, meanwhile, had 12 total shots, with seven of those being on goal.
LUTES BREAK CROSS-TOWN RIVALRY SLUMP: In its third game of the season on Sept. 13, Pacific Lutheran tied Puget Sound, 2-2 in double overtime to end a 27-match losing streak to the Loggers. Lauren Larson netted her fourth and fifth goals of the season to give the Lutes an early 2-0 lead. She opened the scoring just 6:07 into the match when she ran onto Mimi Granlund's through ball and finished to the upper right corner of the goal. The second tally came at 14:31 when Larson took a pass from Hannah Bush near the top of the box and hit it past Loggers keeper and into the lower left corner. The assist was the fourth of the season for Bush. The 2-0 lead stunned a crowd that came expecting to see the 10-time defending conference champions Loggers make it 28 straight wins over PLU dating back to the 1998 season. In the second half, however, the Loggers were finally rewarded for their pressure on the PLU defense when a goal off a corner kick cut the UPS deficit in half. That tally came at 70:25, and at 82:16 UPS finishing past Gonzalez to tie the game. Both teams had several scoring chances in the two overtime periods but were not able to capitalize.
NWC RECOGNITION: One of Spidahl's top recruits, Lauren Larson, led the Lutes with nine goals and was selected to the All-Northwest Conference Second Team. She was the only Lute to earn first or second team all-conference recognition for the 2012 season. Of Larson's nine scores, four were of the game-winning variety, and she also added one assist on the season. Senior midfielder Mimi Granlund, junior defenders Kristi D'Allesandro and Mariah Rasmussen, and freshman goalkeeper Marisa Gonzalez were all selected as honorable mention awardees. Granlund tallied one goal and two assists while starting all 18 games, D'Allesandro started in all 18 matches and tallied one goal, Rasmussen anchored the central defense starting in all 18 matches while registering 1,740 minutes played, and Gonzalez racked up 94 saves and boasted a goals-against average of 0.88 in her freshman season.
GONZALEZ HONORED BY NWC: Freshman goalkeeper Marisa Gonzalez was honored on Nov. 6 for her stellar defensive performances when she was awarded Northwest Conference Women's Soccer Defensive Player of the Week. Gonzalez recorded a total of eight shutouts during the season, which is the eighth most single-season shutouts recorded in program history. She finished the season with a 0.88 goals against average. "She's been a leader of our defense and has been a big reason why our program has turned it around in terms of being competitive," Coach Spidahl said. "To have eight shutouts in a tough conference is exactly the type of impact we expected her to have as one of the key recruits."
NATION ON NOTICE: Several Lutes posted impressive stats this season and are comparable to other top performers throughout the country. Freshman forward Lauren Larson led the youth movement and the rest of her team with nine goals this season. Her prolific scoring was the most PLU has seen since Jenny McKinsey's nine-goal season back in 2006. Larson also tallied four game-winning goals, placing her 77th nationally in the category. Teammate Marisa Gonzalez also had a freshman year to remember, making a major statistical impact on PLU's success this season. Gonzalez ranks 41st nationally with 1707:04 minutes played, 63rd with a save percentage of 0.847, 88th with her 0.88 goals-against average, and 128th in total saves with 94.
GRANLUND RECEIVES ACADEMIC ALL-DISTRICT NOTICE: Senior midfielder and team captain Mimi Granlund earned 2012 Capital One Academic All-District 8 NCAA Division III First Team recognition. Granlund (Lake Oswego, Ore. / Lake Oswego HS), a triple major in math, physics, and art was the only Northwest Conference representative on the District 8 team that includes Division III programs throughout 21 western states and Canada. Her name was advanced for consideration as a Capital One Academic All-American. A center midfielder, Granlund had one goal and one assist while starting all 16 of Pacific Lutheran's matches this season. She has played 62 matches with 59 starts during her PLU career. "Mimi's leadership and work ethic this season have been outstanding," Spidahl said. "She epitomizes the sort of student-athlete that we are looking for at PLU. She has already left a legacy by helping to turn this program around in less than a year." Members of the College Sports Information Directors Association nominate and vote on student-athletes who meet various requirements including at least sophomore academic standing a a 3.30 grade point average or above.
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By Brenna Sussman, PLU Sports Information Assistant