Written by Student Assistant Christian Bond
TACOMA, Wash. – After splitting the weekend in Pennsylvania, the Pacific Lutheran University women's soccer team returns home to host Evergreen State College on Friday at 5:30 p.m. and Saint Martin's University on Sunday at 3 p.m.
Entering the 2017 season, the biggest question surrounding the reigning Northwest Conference Champions was who is going to replace All-American goalkeeper Takara Mitsui '17. The program brought in three first-year keepers along with returning senior Blakely Sanders and junior Natalie Robinson. After battling in the preseason, Robinson has emerged as the team's regular starter.
"Natalie Robinson has emerged as our clear starter," head coach Seth Spidahl said. "She has been fantastic in our two exhibitions and first two games of our regular season. A standout performance vs Messiah last Saturday night. We haven't missed a beat as a team with her in net."
Robinson's first true test came against Franklin & Marshall College last Friday in Pennsylvania. She answered the call, shutting out the Diplomats by making a save while Leah Magee tallied a hat-trick in a 3-0 victory. The next day, the Lutes fell to second-ranked Messiah College. Robinson fought off 18 shots, including seven on goal, with one getting past her in the 71st minute. It was an outstanding opening weekend for the new keeper and Robinson credits Mitsui for helping prepare her for her debut in goal.
"My freshmen and sophomore year Takara was my biggest competitor on the field," Robinson said. "She challenged me physically, technically, and probably most significantly mentally. But more importantly she was a great teammate because without such a talented and committed teammate to challenge me everyday I wouldn't be comfortable this year to step into the role I have now having not played the past two years. It's funny though, as much as we competed the past two years, she's been one of my biggest supporters this year, training with me this summer before preseason camp and calming my nerves before my first game against Seattle Pacific over text."
For the rest of the season, Robinson wants to use the skills Mitsui helped her develop to help the team as best she can.
Sept. 8: PLU vs. Evergreen State at East Field (5:30 p.m.)
Series History: The Lutes own a commanding 29-3-3 edge in the all-time series against nearby Evergreen State. The two teams last met on Sept. 5, 2014 with the Lutes cruising to a 5-0 victory.
About the Geoducks: Evergreen (0-1-1) heads to Tacoma already battle tested against Northwest Conference squads. The NAIA institution opened the season with a 1-1 double overtime draw against Pacific University before dropping a 1-0 heartbreaker to Linfield College the following day.
The Geoducks, members of the Cascade Collegiate Conference, wrapped up the 2016 season with a 3-8-3 overall record and owned a 1-7-3 mark in conference play.
Sept. 10 PLU vs. Saint Martin's at East Field (3 p.m.)
Series History: Despite the geographic proximity, the Lutes and Saints have never met on the soccer pitch.
About the Saints: Saint Martin's (0-2) had a rough go of it in its season opening trip to California, getting outscored a combined 9-1. The Saints dropped a 6-1 decision to California State University-Monterey Bay with Shea McKnight providing the team's lone score in the 90th minute. Two days later, SMU was on the wrong side of a 3-0 decision against Notre Dame De Namur University.
St. Martin's was picked to finish ninth in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference's preseason poll after compiling a 3-14-1 record and a 2-10 mark in GNAC action in 2016.