Sunday, August 31, 2014

Visiting non-league opponents sweep Whitworth, Whitman women Saturday

Visitors come out on top in series of tight encounters (Photos: Gerald Barnhart)
In the second day of hosting the College of St Benedict and UC Santa Cruz, host Whitworth and league compatriot Whitman each came up one goal short on Saturday, respectively. The CSB Blazers edged the Pirates 1-0 on a second half goal and the Banana Slugs rallied from an early deficit to top the short-handed Missionaries 2-1.

W: Whitman College vs UC Santa Cruz

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Facing games on back-to-back days, the Missionaries put forth arguably the most impressive performance of the weekend with an extremely limited lineup due to injuries and the lack of the incoming freshman. Led by new coach Laura Williamson, Whitman followed up the previous day's 1-0 victory of CSB by taking the initial lead seven minutes into the contest in Spokane.

Emma Onstad-Hawes fed Lena de Guzman for the opening tally of the game, but the visitors from California pulled even 10 minutes later and found what stood as the winner in the 33rd.

"We travelled up from Walla Walla with 11 players with healthy bodies - it's tough for a doubleheader - so we came out really strong yesterday, played tremendously well, connected well and got out with the win," said Williamson of the previous day's victory. "We knew today we were gonna be exhausted and it showed after the first 15 minutes of the match. We just technically weren't sound today because we didn't have legs under us."

Despite the tired legs, Whitman would keep up with UCSC in the second half, finding numerous attacking situations as they looked for the equalizer while goalkeeper Haley Case made several nice saves to keep a draw an option.

In the end, the Missionaries were solely left with Friday's victory courtesy of a Clara Merlina strike in the 53rd minute.

The skeleton squad will get some help this week as their new additions begin school next week, allowing the team to come together as they head to Santa Cruz next weekend before kicking off league play at home against Whitworth in two weeks time.

"I am excited about the group we have," the new coach said of her first year guiding the program. "We have a lot of talent in this group and I think we are coming together well; and when we add our freshman in next weekend I think we are gonna have a good season and we going to be in a good position to do some good things this year.

"We just have to take it one game at a time. The Northwest Conference is tough - its gonna be a tight battle, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it goes."

W: Whitworth University vs College of St Benedict 

After the opening weekend of play, it looks like the Whitworth defense is ready for the season. After taking UCSC to a 110-minute scoreless draw yesterday, they went another 49 on Saturday before allowing a goal on a scramble in front of goal in the narrow defeat.

"It was a good weekend. Our number one objective was to get experience on the field and we got that taken care of," said Whitworth coach Jael Hagerott. "Today was a little rougher. We had some tired legs and a young team that sort of wilted under pressure a little bit. We asked for that though because that's how we need to grow."

Before the fatigue began to set in, the Pirates had the better of play in the first half, outshooting the Blazers 6-1. The visitors, though, had the first clear chance 10 minutes into the contest when a ball into the box was mishit by 14, giving the Blazers an open chance. In her first appearance for the Bucs, goalkeeper Sienna Tanner, though, did well to quickly come out and thwart the chance, but the loose ball still in the danger zone, allowing Alyssa Hoffman to get a foot to the ball. Defender 7, however, came up huge with a goal-line clearance.

From there, the Pirates had the better chances, creating a lot of good looks at goal going up the flanks. In the 18th minute a ball served in from the right dropped to 13 at the left corner of the six, but she was unable to get a clean hit on the one-time volley to put it past the keeper.

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A minute later Hannah Bokma, who had shifted from the middle to up top with Tiara Pajimola, broke past the defense but her shot with a defender on her shoulder from about 17 yards went right to the keeper.

In the 22nd minute, the Pirates had another pair of chances. First, a ball served in from the left was brought down expertly by Pajimola, but a defender swarmed quickly before she could unleash a clean shot and moments later Bokma fired a blast from about 24 yards that slipped past the upper right corner of the goal.

The second half was a different matter however with the visiting side posting 10 shots to the hosts one, though only four were on goal. It only took five minutes, though, for CSB to get the lone goal they needed when Hoffman knocked home the loose ball in a scramble created after Tanner made the initial stop on her first attempt.

"Honestly, I'd have to go back and watch it on tape myself," Hagerott said of the scramble. "It was a scrum in the box and I don't know if it went off of us or them - I have no idea. It was a sloppy goal, but those go in."

"We had a couple chances, but right now our heading is poor on goal. We created a couple chances that we just could not get the ball on target," she added about their limited opportunities to pull even.

Whitworth heads to Texas next weekend for a pair of games at Southwestern, playing the hosts Friday and nearby Mary Hardin-Baylor at the same venue the next day.

"We are excited. We have a talented group and have good depth with the team now," she said of the season ahead. "Again, for us it's pretty much getting experience, starting getting things oiled out on the field and taking it forward from here.

"We do have a bigger squad. We learned from last year, just with injuries and players still coming back from that and we are getting 10 freshman experience on the field right now."

Last year's experience of being down to around 13 healthy players at one point certainly gave Whitworth some empathy for Whitman's situation on the weekend. With a vastly larger group this year, that appears to be a problem they likely will not face again in 2014.