Sunday, September 30, 2012

Whitworth Pirates remain unbeaten after PLU doubleheader

Pajimola celebrates opener, Ubben buried after winner and PLU enjoys short-lived lead | Photos: Gerald Barnhart
In a dramatic afternoon, the visiting Pacific Lutheran University women equalized twice for a 2-2 draw and the PLU men’s team rallied to take the lead in the second half only to see the Pirates come back with two unanswered strikes for the 3-2 win in a showdown of two of the Northwest Conference’s three 4-0-0 teams.

Pacific Lutheran University 2 :: 3 Whitworth University – MEN

It was a daunting task for the Pirates coming into the weekend, facing both of the conference’s perfect teams back-to-back in 24 hours with PLU and the University of Puget Sound coming to town. On Saturday, Whitworth survived the first half of the test with thrilling moments throughout the contest as Sam Engle kicked things off with a bicycle kick goal 11 minutes in and Robby Ubben finishing things off with the winner with six minutes left.

Giancarlo Santoro, PLU
“It’s a tough gig, because you play the two Tacoma schools – they are always good – and so you don’t have much time to bathe in your own glory, or your own pity if you lose,” said Whitworth head coach Sean Bushey. “You just have to respond and be smart about recovering and go get them tomorrow, so we’ll see what happens.”

Plenty happened Saturday afternoon, beginning with a spectacular strike in the 11th minute from freshman Sam Engle, who sent a bicycle kick goal inside the right post. Colin Shockman delivered the ball from the right flank, finding Mike Chavez on the far side of the goal for a header back toward Engle for the amazing finish.

Midfielder Giancarlo Santoro propelled the Lutes to the lead in a back-and-forth contest. He found Emmanuel Amarh in the 24th minute inside the box, where he put his shot slightly from the right side inside the far post out of Kyle Novak’s reach.

Emmanuel Amarh, PLU
A fingertip save by PLU’s Joe Rayburn four minutes into the second half on a Karl Muelheims shot that was destined for the upper right corner kept the score level. Eight minutes later Santoro found an open Shane Gutierrez, who rifled a high line drive from about 25 yards out that Novak was unable to reach.

Defender Will Wren, who has been the star on both ends of the field in recent matches, made a fantastic run to set up the equalizer for Whitworth. After receiving the ball deep in the left corner he drove into the box along the endline, beating a defender before sending a low ball across the six to Sam Selisch, who took a touch and slipped it inside the near post.

Robby Ubben, Whitworth
While PLU was attempting to pull players back to cover for limping defensive midfielder Shane Gutierrez with seven minutes left, an error on defense allowed Whitworth to take advantage with Muelheims intercepting the ball and finding an open Robby Ubben, who fired from the top of the box into the upper right corner.

The visitors did not give up however, and with three minutes left continued to provide drama. Among the chances was a shot from Brendan Cohen that narrowly missed the upper left corner.

“The PLU game’s always that way somehow,” said Bushey about the wild affair. “Even last year’s 1-0 games were back-and-forth. We’ve had 4-3 games and 3-2… there’s always something where the game gets open.

“It makes it fun for the fans, stressful for the coaches,” added Bushey, who was pleased they finally scored more than one goal in a game.

Around the Conference: Whitworth is now the only unbeaten team in the conference as Sunday’s opponent, 21st-ranked UPS, fell in overtime at Whitman, 2-1... Linfield blanked George Fox, 2-0, and Willamette downed Pacific, 3-2.

Pacific Lutheran University 2 :: 2 Whitworth University – WOMEN

With the Lutes looking for their first conference victory after starting the season with three draws in the first four matches, it was not an easy outing for the Pirates Saturday.

Benner (L) ended record shutout streak
The visitors had the first good opportunity 11 minutes into the contest when a corner sent into the box found the feet of Mariah Rasmussen, who was unable to get it over the line from a couple yards out.

Whitworth would finally break the stalemate in the 24th minute of the match when Tiara Pajimola (Spokane, WA), who had recently shifted inside from the right flank, ran onto a long ball from Kelsey Griswold at the edge of the box between two defenders to slice it past the helpless keeper from 14 yards.

The excitement factor kicked up a notch in the second half. Eleven minutes into the second half a PLU ball into the box was headed by defender Jamie Hegg (Spokane, WA), but the ball went straight up and bounced down right in front of them just off the left post, but no one from the visitors was able to put it away.

Four minutes later Pajimola tried to put a shot on goal, but the effort was knocked down to Amber Craig (Pasco, WA), who fired from 12 yards only to be denied.

The visitors finally found some fortune in the 79th minute when Samantha Benner struck a floating ball 25 yards out that beat Ashley Rothrock (Spokane, WA) for the goal allowed in conference play by the Pirates, snapping a school-record shutout streak of 528 minutes.

Grant (12) celebrates Whitworth's second goal
Whitworth answered right back three minutes later with Jackie Day crossing the ball from the right side of the box to the far post where Katrin Grant made a short leap to head inside the left post past her marker and the keeper.

With 90 seconds left, however, consistent pressure from the visitors resulted in a successful corner in which Blake Warner found the head of Mimi Granlund.

Both teams had chances in overtime, but it looked like the hosts were going to find the winner in the final seconds of the match when a cross into the box created a scramble in which the ball went off the post and a defender’s hand in a call that was overlooked or unseen.

Around the Conference: Whitworth faces the only other unbeaten in the conference, Puget Sound (5-0-1), Sunday in the second match of the weekend. UPS is coming off of a 2-0 victory at Whitman… Lewis & Clark won at home, 2-0, against Pacific University while Linfield and host Willamette played to a scoreless draw.