Written by Student Assistant Christian Bond
TACOMA, Wash. – Nine seniors are preparing to celebrate their careers as the Pacific Lutheran University women's soccer team hosts its final home games of the season this weekend. The Lutes face Whitman College on Saturday and 24 hours later, have a crucial game against Whitworth University at East Field that could determine who sits atop the Northwest Conference.
The senior class has accomplished plenty in their time as Lutes (13-3, 10-2 NWC). Last year, the group went undefeated in the regular season for the first time in program history and won a Northwest Conference title. As a group they own a 58-12-7 record on the pitch with an incredible 54 shutouts. Senior captain Hailey Smoot thought back to what it was to meet the group she'd go on to win a conference title with, and be in the hunt to add another.
"Before we reported for preseason camp, I initially thought it would be awkward getting to know these new faces," Smoot reminisced. "But from the moment we all got together during preseason of freshman year, I knew that our class was going to be a special one. One that would accomplish great things here at PLU and one that would leave a legacy of passion, determination, and dedication. Since that first day of preseason camp freshman year, these people have become my best friends and the people that make laugh the most."
The only person on the team Smoot knew was Machaela Graddy. The remaining seven were new faces. Early in their tenure, the senior class experienced disappointment. As first-years and sophomores, PLU had a chance to clinch conference titles with wins over teams at the bottom of the conference. Both years, the Lutes fell, missing out on a chance at being champions.
"You can imagine the frustration my class must have felt as we nearly had the conference title at our fingertips but couldn't bring out a win against two last place teams," Smoot said. "As a class, we faced probably the most disappointing finale to our freshman and sophomore seasons, but we took those losses and used them as fuel for the next seasons."
Memories fill Smoot's mind as she's enjoyed four years with her teammates. They've traveled to England as sophomores during a preseason camp. Smoot can remember how hard her teammates worked towards beating defending champion University of Puget Sound last year to clinch the conference title.
Memories from games fade, but relationships made from being teammates at PLU last forever.
"I do remember how my teammates made me feel," Smoot said. "I will always cherish the times we laughed together, the pre-game dance parties, and the inside jokes we made during team bonding. My teammates made me laugh on days I didn't feel like smiling. They made me want to work hard on days when I was too tired to move. They are the reason my four years here at PLU were the greatest years of my life. I am extremely thankful for the amazing people I got to play with and for the memories we have made together."
Smoot and the rest of the seniors are set for their final regular season home weekend at East Field. Whitman pays a visit on Saturday followed by Whitworth on Sunday with both games starting at 12 p.m. Prior to Sunday's match PLU will honor the 2017 senior class which owns a 34-2-2 record at home. Those being recognized include Blakely Sanders, Kelsey Hathaway, Megan Anderson, Kaylie Rozell, Machaela Graddy, Taylor Lunde, Kristi Kaneta, Hailey Smoot, and Ashley Mindnich.
Oct. 28: PLU vs. Whitman at East Field (12 p.m.)
Series History: PLU holds a 44-16-7 record over Whitman. Under Seth Spidahl, the Lutes are 7-1-3 against the Blues. Earlier this season, the Lutes picked up a 1-0 win over the Blues on Sept. 30 with Machaela Graddy providing the lone score in the fourth minute of overtime.
About the Blues: Whitman (2-13-1, 2-9-1 NWC) has struggled throughout the 2017 season. Their conference wins have come over Lewis & Clark College on Sept. 16 when the Blues won 4-2 and last Saturday, a 5-1 Whitman win over Pacific University.
Renee van Bergeijk leads the Blues with three goals this season. Sofia Ellington, Eliza Van Wtter, Sophia Brussell and Jordan O'Roy have two goals. Allie Seracuse has spent a majority of the season in goal for Whitman. She's made 82 saves while allowing 29 goals, good enough for a .748 save percentage.
Oct. 29: PLU vs. Whitworth at East Field (12 p.m.)
Series History: Whitworth holds a 28-19-6 record over PLU. The Pirates victory over PLU on Oct. 1 snapped a six-game winning streak the Lutes held. It was the first defeat to Whitworth that PLU has experienced under Head Coach Seth Spidahl.
About the Pirates: Whitworth (11-4-1, 10-1-1 NWC) heads into the weekend in first place in the NWC standings, owning a one point edge on PLU. The Pirates travel to Tacoma riding a three-game winning streak, outscoring its three opponents by a 12-2 margin during that stretch. Whitworth's lone stumble in conference play was a 2-0 setback on Oct. 14 against Willamette University.
Leah Corra leads the team in both goals (eight) and points (18) while Kathryn Bischoff and Michele Whan have both found the back of the net on four occasions.
Molly Webster owns a 0.49 goals against average, having made 22 saves in 742 minutes of work.