Sunday, September 9, 2012

#24 Whitworth upsets #7 Wheaton in dramatic doubleheader

Whitworth goal scorers Pajimola (L) and Chavez (R) | Photos: Gerald Barnhart
It was a thrilling day at the Whitworth Soccer Classic. The winless women’s team nearly rallied for an upset draw against #19 Augustana before a controversial penalty in overtime spoiled the outcome in a 2-1 decision. Then the unbeaten men’s side nabbed a narrow 1-0 victory against Wheaton in a hard-fought contest.

#7 Wheaton College (IL)  0 :: 1 #24 Whitworth University – Men

The Whitworth Pirates posted their third shutout in four games to move to 3-0-1 on the season with the upset victory over Wheaton College, who entered the Top 25 of the NSCAA poll this week along with Whitworth.

“It was good. Wheaton is a good, solid team,” Whitworth head coach Sean Bushey said of the result. “They came in with three straight wins and giving up only couple goals, and scoring a lot of goals, so it was a big, big test. It shows that we keep making improvements. We played a good non-conference schedule so it was good heart, desire to see demonstrated. And with a lot of new players we need to make sure that we remember that we can win games and this is how you have to do it – fight and such; and against a good opponent, so it was fun.”

Whitworth got an early chance five minutes into the contest when Kekoa Mountcasle got a shot off on a quick counter from the top right corner of the area, but from that point the match turned in favor of the highly-ranked visitors.

In particular, it was Mitchell Paur that was a consistent thorn for the Pirates. On a quick counter in the 11th minute he fired from the left corner of the area, seeing his shot deflect midway and bounce just wide of the far post. A minute later he sent another chance just wide of the goal.

A play in the 18th minute proved critical in the momentum going forward as another ball in to Paur eight yards out on the left post looked like real danger, but his flick onto the goal popped up for fairly routine catch by goalkeeper Kyle Novak. On the play, however, Paur took a knock from a defender and was hobbled on the play, eventually coming out and playing a lesser factor in the match upon his return in the second half.

Having survived the first 20 minutes of back-and-forth play, Whitworth began to take more control of the ball and would finally strike in the 35th minute courtesy of high pressure that they applied for much of the contest.

“The back line is really solid; they were able to win balls in the air and defend and not give up anything too dangerous. The keeper did his job, made a big save at the end. So, there’s definitely a heart and soul there, taking on pressure,” Bushey said of the shutout of Wheaton, which came into the match with nine goals in three games. “And really, we didn’t give up anything too dangerous; we had more dangerous opportunities while they had more corners and shots. I was happy how we fought.”

Muelheims' pressure led to winner

The defense, ultimately, created the offense and the winning tally. 

Wheaton defender Stephen Russo, looking to send a long ball forward out of the back from the midfield line saw Karl Muelheims sneak in at the last second and block it point-blank. Muelheims immediately gathered the loose ball and sped through the defense, battling past a pair of defenders on his drive to the top of the box before dishing the ball off to Mike Chavez with no clear shot of his own. Chavez stepped to the ball and fired first-time from 17 yards.

“I give a lot of credit to Sean. I think Sean saw something so early in the season we didn’t see ourselves,” said Wheaton head coach Michael Giuliano. “We obviously sorted it out towards the end in the second half, but it took us a whole half to figure it out. He figured out how to take advantage of our aggressiveness in terms of our going forward with our backs and used it against us.”

Two minutes later the Pirates were teased with a ball from Chavez out of the left corner that found its way across the six to Muelheims, who couldn’t get his foot to it cleanly. The ball continued on its path to Anders Nostdahl, who suffered the same fate as he tried to find his footing for a shot.

A chance from Muelheims with six minutes left again proved dangerous as he was able to get off a shot that was saved and then cleared away from the goal mouth by a defender.

The Pirates had a few more chances early in the second half for another tally, including one from Samuel Engle in the 58th when a long ball was misjudged by defender Julien Van der Does and allowed Engle to get behind him and let loose a shot from the top of the box that was saved at the right post.

Giuliano makes adjustments
“Yeah, it was 1-0 today, but the six most dangerous chances we’ve had on goal against us all season long just happened this game,” added Giuliano. “We haven’t seen anyone be dangerous against us until today and they exploited; they knew when certain people were forward they knew to counterattack quickly and it worked for them.”

With four minutes left the visiting Thunder thought they were going to strike when a diagonal cross from the left was redirected on goal with pace with a snap-header from Adam Blackman. The shot from 10 yards out on the right side forced a nice diving save from Novak, who had four saves on the day, at the near post.

“It was beautiful pitch, gracious host,” Giuliano said of the weekend, which began with a 2-0 win against Pacific Lutheran Friday on goals from Russo and Josh Clark. “This stings a little bit but the experience of it was great; and love being in the Pacific Northwest – just doesn’t look anything like Chicago. The weather feels about the same today, but it was a great experience overall.

“We still like our team. We still think we got a good chance to be something special,” Giuliano added about the season moving forward. “We have to learn to clean up a couple of things and I think – hats off to Whitworth, if we have a good season, I think they’ve exposed something in us I think we can fix pretty easily, but we have to fix it to go forward.”

#19 Augustana College (IL) 2 :: OT :: 1 Whitworth University - Women

A rather lackluster match from the start with both teams showing tired legs was turned upside down late in the match as both teams exchanged goals and took the contest into extra time.

“For losing the players we did today and for who we were playing against, we did very, very well,” said Whitworth head coach Jael Hagerott about how the match went.

The turning point came in the 73rd minute when a free kick from Morgan Olsen from 30 yards out on the left side was inadvertently headed backward by Kelsey Griswold into the open left side of the goal from 10 yards out, though diving goalkeeper Ashley Rothrock made an outstanding effort in reaction only to see it go by her outstretched hand by inches.

“That’s the game of soccer for you. What can we say? You can play a good game and then it takes one or two mistakes and if you don’t finish on the other end, you’re down.”

Earlier in the second half, a pair of long shots, from at least 25 yards out, in the 55th and 63rd minutes by Lindsey Foster were directed just under the crossbar only to be tipped over at the last moment by Meredith Chew.

“She can shoot from distance, and what we’ve found is that she can even do it in big-time games, so it’s something to look forward to.”

With five minutes left Chew was unable to stop another long effort, this time from Tiara Pajimola. Her 30-yard effort tested the keeper high again, but this time went off the crossbar and came down off the inside of the right post before bouncing across the goal, as if in slow motion, before hitting the backside of the left post and the inside netting to confirm the tally.

The Pirates fought hard, but Farrell's pk spoiled upset bid
“Credit to the team; they kept on digging, kept on fighting so it was exciting to be able to come back close to the end of the game. We were hoping to pull it out but we didn’t.”

It was a surprising tally from the striker, who had been a threat several times earlier in the contest from closer range. Fifteen minutes into the first half she did well to cut to her left at the top of the box but was denied by the keeper, who had come out. At the half hour mark she got onto a ball over the top and was left alone with the keeper, who stayed on her near post and tipped Pajimola’s shot wide.

Her best chance came five minutes before the equalizer when she took advantage of an awkward ball and the keeper’s hesitation. A high ball over the top in the 81st initially looked harmless as it bounced high and Chew came out to meet it, but it was coming down on the outside of the box, forcing Chew to stop. That allowed Pajimola to quietly come flying in past a defender and poke the ball as it fell to the ground around the keeper for a great chance, gathering the ball and turning to goal only to have the defender from the far side, Kerri Skotnicki, recover well on the play and deny her shot at the right post.

Aside from a Kirsten Boesen shot from the left for Augustana that flashed wide of the far post with 30 seconds left in regulation, the rest of regulation and overtime played out in a pedestrian manner until the referee blew the whistle for a penalty with three minutes remaining in the second overtime session.

A ball was played in to the box to Taylor Moesle, and as she attempted to maneuver in the area Griswold and Jami Hegg closed space quickly and appeared to take the ball away with little contact, but Moesle went down and the whistle sounded with Griswold ruled for an infraction. Kelly Farrell converted well with a shot to the lower left corner for the win.

“It’s a learning process. Augustana is a very good team. We showed that we could compete against them so we’ll take from what we did well and keep applying it on in the future,” Hagerott said of the season moving forward.

The heartbreaking result was not the only loss for the Pirates on the day. The team lost Jill Pecka, who went down at midfield with a knee injury, with 13 minutes left in the first half and then saw Molly Smith suffer the same fate on the touchline at midfield six minutes later after late contact from behind that went uncalled.

“We hate to see them go down; and they were two ACL’s – they were just coming back, and so to lose them again, very tough – very good players. But also on the flip, very pleased with how the players we put in stepped up and played well.”