Contact: Mark Albanese, Director of Sports Communication
NEWBERG, Ore. -Another staunch defensive effort coupled with a Kaylie Rozell goal early in the first half proved to be more than enough for the Pacific Lutheran University women's soccer team on Saturday afternoon, hoisting the Northwest Conference title for the second consecutive season with a 1-0 victory over host George Fox University.
"I'm very proud of our team," said Head Coach Seth Spidahl. "It's always much harder to be the hunted than the hunter and to win back-to-back championships after losing such a great senior class was a challenge, but our team was fantastic all year, especially defensively. Kristi Kaneta and Natalie Robinson and Brianna Hunting stepped in to fill some big shoes and our team defending has been great."
Rozell tallied her third goal of the season in the 11th minute, finding the back of the net off a cross from Machaela Graddy and a pass from Liz Griffith. The goal ended up being the lone score of the day as the Lute defense was a iron curtain all afternoon, limiting the host Bruins (8-8-2, 6-7-2 NWC) to just two shots and no shots on goal. PLU (16-3, 13-2 NWC) dominated the game statistically, finishing the contest with a 12-2 edge in shots, including an 8-0 advantage in shots on target while taking six of the game's seven corner kicks.
Natalie Robinson barely broke a sweat in goal, playing all 90 minutes to collect her 15th clean sheet of the season. The junior has now gone 217 consecutive minutes without allowing a goal, a streak spanning across the last three games. Her counterpart, Annalisa Klein of George Fox, netted seven saves in the complete game effort.
"Today we scored a great opening goal and we had lots of chances to score a second or third but it just didn't happen. That's why we talk about defending. Overall, we didn't play that great today. As a team we weren't at our top but sometimes you need to find a way even when you're not at top form and that's what we did. George Fox is as good as they've ever been and its never easy to win on the road, so all and all we'll take the result."
The victory gives the Lutes their 12th NWC title in program history with a game to spare and gives PLU the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament.
"It's funny after the game some of our players are disappointed because they didn't think they played to their potential and I love to see that about our program. That we can win 1-0, win the Northwest Conference championship back-to-back, and our players aren't satisfied because they felt like they could have done better. That's a great sign of the culture that we have and I'm proud of the team."
The Lutes close out the regular season tomorrow at 12 p.m., taking on Lewis & Clark College in Portland.