Saturday, September 8, 2012

Split for Whitworth at Soccer Classic home openers

The Whitworth defense held strong again with Ubben (center) scoring winner | Photos: Gerald Barnhart
The Whitworth women opened their home schedule with a 4-0 loss to the nation’s fourth-ranked Wheaton College, but things picked up in the afternoon with the 23rd-ranked men’s team earning a 2-1 victory against Corban.

The Thunder cruised to the victory in the women’s contest with four first half goals. Leah DeMoss scored in the 27th and 37th minutes before setting up the first of two Ally Witt strikes in the 40th and 42nd minutes. Meanwhile, in the other women’s match-up, No. 19 Augustana edged the University of Puget Sound, 1-0. Whitworth plays Augustana Saturday with Wheaton playing Puget Sound.

With only one goal in their season-opening road trip, Friday’s home opener for the men proved to be a real confidence builder coming off their debut in the national rankings as they responded well against better opposition. A strike in the 44th minute from Andrew French capped gave the Pirates the advantage and after giving up the equalizer, the quick reply seconds after the restart from Robby Ubben provided the winner.

It was a quick start for the Pirates with Sam Selisch sending a shot from 30 yards just wide two minutes. Two minutes later a long ball from right back Will Wren over the top put Selisch through with a defender on his shoulder that would eventually cut in front of him as the goalkeeper arrived at the top of the box. Ubben, however, got the loose ball back and worked around the keeper before being forced to dish the ball back to Robby Ubben, who was first denied by the keeper but put a weak effort on goal that defender James Williamson was able to get to and clear away from the line.

“In the first seven minutes it was good soccer,” said Whitworth head coach Sean Bushey. “It is our second weekend of play so it was very uplifting because it was much better than last week. The next 15 wasn’t as clean or as good, but it was a good battle playing against a good team. They challenged us so that was fun.

Another teasing moment came in the 38th minute when a corner from the left was initially headed straight up at the near corner of the six, falling at the near post to Selisch, who was unable to get a clean header on the ball to bring it in from a yard out.

Whitworth nearly regretted the missed chance a minute later when a square ball was played in from the left side to Juan Castillo, who took a couple touches to settle the waist-high ball before firing a shot from the top of the box that forced a save from Kyle Novak.

French opened the scoring
The opening goal came on a long sequence of play inside the box with just over a minute left before the intermission. The play started with Brandon Meyer battling past defender Daniel Frederickson (Boise, ID) in the corner before dishing the ball from the end line to Samuel Engle, who fired from 14 yards only to see it blocked. The ball bounced around and eventually found its way back to Engle for a second chance but was stopped again before it dropped back to French for a strike that slipped in just under the crossbar on the left side of the goal from the top of the box.

“It was well worked by Frenchie,” said Bushey. “He worked hard, actually, throughout the whole first half so it was neat to see that he was able to get the goal out of his work and scrap. And he’s had couple challenges of getting the ball in the net so to be able to get that, and release that was important. It was important to be able to release Robby from the goal scoring (drought) as well to open up his goal scoring account, so it was good.”

It was another quick start to the second half for the hosts with a corner kick seven minutes in resulting in a couple headers before it fell to Engle at the left post, but he was unable to get a foot on it cleanly to bury the chance.

Fifteen minutes into the second session, however, Corban finally found a crack in the Whitworth defense with Tyler Hagen delivering a ball through the middle to Josh Hamilton, who caught the keeper out of position and slipped it in nearly uncontested to put the match on level terms and snap Whitworth’s shutout run to open the season at 260 minutes.

“First goal, it was sloppy defending, but credit to them. They were working hard and they created a couple of opportunities to score. They just opened us up in the middle and we gave up the goal,” said Bushey.

But things remained even, on paper, for only 15 seconds before Ubben’s shot hit the twine after driving up the middle past several defenders and firing from the center of the area.

“That’s a huge response actually, because coming into the game we had scored one goal in 200 minutes so we hadn’t proven we were a goal scoring team. So, to respond back real quick was huge, and a good test of character and resilience,” Bushey said. “It was good; we made improvements over last week, which is what it’s about. And as we look to open up conference play next weekend that’s what we’re looking to do.”

The visitors would push matters for the final quarter of the match looking for an equalizer, but could not find one. In the 71st minute Hagen took a shot from 25 yards that forced second half goalkeeper Nate Bell to parry wide. With seven minutes left Taylor Satcher (Medical Lake) sent a shot from 25 yards out on the left side just wide of the far post.

The Whitworth men were playing at home for the first time after opening the season last weekend in Minnesota, where they played to a scoreless draw in the opener against Augsburg and a 1-0 win against host Hamline.

“It was good - Corban was a better opponent actually, though those teams were good,” Bushey said of last week. “It’s just the first weekend is hard for everybody. You’re getting out the kinks of coming out of training camp - legs are heavy, and so there’s a little more spring in our step, spring in their step (today), and that made for an open game. And now we go tomorrow - Wheaton is excellent.”