|Another Whitworth home doubleheader Sunday vs Pacific Lutheran | Photos: Gerald Barnhart|
Puget Sound 0 :: 1 Whitworth - MEN
Whitworth used a stout defensive effort to blank the league's leading offense, which came into the game on 19 goals in seven games with at least two in all but one outing.
"I thought defensively, that is where I feel like this was by far our best performance we've put in and it shows - they did not have a shot on goal the whole game," said Whitworth head coach Morgan Cathey. "I thought our fullbacks were amazing; I thought our center backs dealt with everything they threw at them - hats off to them.
"And then, I thought we were really composed to keep to our game. The first time we played them, we let them dictate the game, which is bizarre. The only way we let them dictate is by hyping it up and playing with tons of, I would say, almost passion. In this game we were composed, confident and played our game.
"I think its good for our guys to get a result that we earned by hard defense and by good soccer. That's what we want to be defined by and its great to get a result against the top team in the league. They are a very good team, they work so hard and they have so much desire so I know they are not going to slip up much, but its good for us to know what we can accomplish when we do those two things."
Meanwhile, Whitworth was buzzing offensively with several near misses on crosses throughout the game. Two minutes into the contest a corner was struck low to the top of the box where David Starkovich stepped up and ripped the ball over the goal.
Spending plenty of time in the offensive end would pay off with Rylan Berriman, who also made a number of dangerous runs up the left flank throughout the game, finding Ubben on the left side of the box where he scored what stood as the winner from about 11 yards out.
Four minutes later he nearly scored again to double the lead when a throw-in to Andrew French at midfield was played forward to Starkovich up the right wing where he crossed the ball into the area. Flying in, Ubben sent his volley narrowly wide of the right post.
The Pirates had a number of other similar chances on dangerous services in the second half, but were unable to add some insurance to their lead. Meanwhile, Puget Sound's best opportunities came via set pieces as the Whitworth defenders continually shut them down in the run of play. The set pieces, though, proved to be just as fruitless for the visitors as the Pirates dominated the aerial battle throughout the game in the box.
"The first time we played them, we lost a lot of balls in the air," said Cathey. "We knew that going in, they are very good on set pieces. They love them; they live and die by them, and it was great to see our guys really bend but not break - they just absorbed everything and were fantastic."
The Pirates now host third-place Pacific Lutheran, whom they tied 1-1 previously, with a chance to create some space, hoping that simultaneously Whitman, who took UPS to overtime in a 1-0 road loss previously, provides a little help for Whitworth Sunday in the second half of their season series with the Loggers.
Puget Sound 0 :: 3 Whitworth - WOMEN
A new definition for victory these days for the Whitworth women is finishing each game and practice without injuries. Down to just a few healthy players available on the bench, the Pirates have gone from title contenders a year ago to resembling a hospital ward.
Things nearly took a disastrous turn with eight minutes left in the first half when the Pirates went from near jubilation on a strike off the crossbar to more agony as star striker Tiara Pajimola (Spokane, WA) laid on the turf after taking a knee to the thigh. The sophomore, after a lengthy examination from the trainers on the pitch and a brief stint on the bench, would return to the field for the final couple minutes before the break and play the entire second half, though she may be out for Sunday's encounter with Pacific Lutheran.
Perhaps a lesson learned from the injury though may be what the team's underlying DNA is: attack-minded.
Playing a makeshift lineup nearly all season looking for a new back line and dealing with injuries, the Pirates had been using Amy Sterk (Pullman, WA) - a defender out of high school that has played forward nearly her entire Whitworth career - at center back, but with the Pajimola absence she was moved back up top with sub replacement Kristin Wucherer. That move left the Pirates with three in the back, something they kept in place for the second half as they took on a more offensive posture and just went at Puget Sound. The Pirates looked much more comfortable with the new mindset as they kept possession and moved the ball well, keeping the ball in the offensive end much of the half and creating numerous opportunities that were just left unfinished as they ended up being outshot 19-4 for the game.
The Loggers, who had numerous shots whistle by the woodwork over the course of the half, nearly doubled the lead in the 25th minute when Cassie Winter got the ball behind the defense and turned with space and only Stump to beat, but she sent her effort high from about 10 yards.
As the clock struck 37 minutes Abbie Moseley struck the crossbar with a shot from the right side of the box, but the Pirates were unable to take advantage of the rebound before the play was whistled dead for Pajimola's injury.
The Pirates looked headed to the break still in the match, but as the clock turned to just one minute remaining, Haley Rosenberg hit a wonder-strike as a defender came in to challenge, finding the upper left corner from about 35 yards out.
With about a half-minute remaining Aaren Sherpe narrowly missed for the Pirates and four minutes into the second half it looked like the hosts would finally break through when Pajimola collected the ball at midfield and proceeded to drive right up the middle, streaking by several players before letting loose from just inside the box and forcing a diving save from goalkeeper Lauren Thomas.
Puget Sound grabbed the clincher, putting things out of reach with about 11 minutes left as Whitworth continued its push for a rally when Beeson cut across the box to create some space for herself from her marker, directing a low roller from about the middle of the right half of the box inside the left upright.