Contact: Mark Albanese, Director of Sports Communication
TACOMA, Wash. - The 25th-ranked Pacific Lutheran University women's soccer team tallied a pair of strikes in the second half on Wednesday evening, walking off East Field with the program's first Northwest Conference title in 24 years after downing crosstown rival University of Puget Sound 2-0.
"We've been working hard for this and to have it happen on our home field in front of friends and family is an awesome opportunity," said Head Coach Seth Spidahl.
"We knew it was a great opportunity for us and we felt like we could do it. We knew it wasn't going to be easy because that's a team over there with a lot of pride. UPS hasn't won it 14 years in a row for no reason and that's a strong senior group that really gave us a good test today. It took everything we had and I couldn't be more proud of our players."
Kaylie Rozell opened the scoring in the second half, finding the back of the net in the 59th minute off a pass from Liz Griffith after Griffith weaved her way past a few Logger defenders and into the box. The homestanding Lutes (15-0-4, 12-0-3 NWC) padded their advantage nine minutes later with Lena Moreno lofting the ball over the UPS defensive backline to Machaela Graddy who headed the ball past the keeper for the two goal lead. PLU buckled down defensively the rest of the way, keeping the Loggers' (13-3-3, 10-2-3 NWC) off the scoreboard and ending their 14-year reign as NWC Champions.
Goalkeeper Takara Mitsui tallied a pair of saves, logging her 15th clean sheet of the season and the 39th of her career, surpassing Kate Wheeler (1987-1990) for sole possession of second on the PLU all-time saves list.
"Liz Griffith was the key to our attack today. She unlocked their defensive lines with her movement and her dribbling. She was our best attacking player even though she didn't score. She kept unbalancing UPS with her dribble and was a key to the game."
"That's why I was so excited that Liz transferred here from Washington State because it's in games like this that you need a player like that to step up and play well and she was awesome today."
"It doesn't surprise me that those two (Rozell and Graddy) are carrying the load right now (offensively) because that's kind of their job and they're embracing it and doing great."
PLU's six seniors: Lauren Larson, AJ Fischer, Kelly White, Lena Moreno, Takara Mitsui, and Krista Morford, all saw the field on Wednesday and capped off their stellar home careers with a 32-2-4 mark at the friendly confines of East Field.
The victory gives the Lutes their 11th NWC title with a game to spare and their first conference crown since the 1992 season. The win also clinches the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament, which will be PLU's first appearance in a national tournament since 1992 and their first ever trip to the Division III Tournament.
The Lutes finish off the regular season on Saturday, taking on George Fox University at 11 a.m. in Newberg, Oregon.