|Whitworth came up short at home Saturday against the visitors | Photos: Gerald Barnhart|
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The Pioneers built the ball up the right side and Emily Thompson, from the right side of the area, slipped the ball in to the top of the six where Annelise Coxeff put the ball easily past the helpless Andrea Stump with one touch in the 59th.
The visitors created some difficulties for the Whitworth back line in the early going and nearly took the lead 90 seconds into the contest when a ball into the box created a chance for Rochelle Jordan. Stump, however, was there for the point-blank block as the striker attempted to strike it first time.
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"They are a good team. They have their key players up top that they look to find so when we as soon as we solved that, that's what sort of helped us gain momentum that way," said Whitworth coach Jael Hagerott.
In the 24th minute McKenzie Hemp took the ball into the left corner and crossed it into the area where Katie Bischoff nodded it toward goal from about 14 yards.
In the second half, the Pirates continued to hold much of the play only to see chance after chance be left wanting and the visitors take control with a half-hour remaining.
Six minutes later Jennifer Loehner nearly put the Pirates level from about 30 yards when a loose ball following a corner popped out to her on the left side, but it rose just over the goal.
The chances for Whitworth continued with several breaks that they were unable to convert and several runs up and around the right flank that were stifled as the ball neared the goal.
The team missed the presence of standout striker Tiara Pajimola, whose pace could have been a dangerous weapon against the Pioneers, but is away for personal reasons.
"We did generate a lot of opportunities. [Finishing] is our Achilles heel right now; we are struggling to finish in front of goal. We are pleased with who we had. We did a very good job up top," Hagerott said, noting that the team is a very young squad.
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"It's good for us. I don't think we were ready," said a clearly disappointed Morgan Cathey after the game about his Pirates. "I think some of the guys were thinking about [Sunday], the next six games; and now we'll find out how they respond. We played fantastic soccer in the first 35 minutes, and you know its a cruel game."
It did not take long for Whitworth to show why they came into the match perfect through the first five games, seemingly flying through and around the Wildcats. Seven minutes into the game Mike Ramos drove to goal and served a cross into the six, but the ball was left unfinished amidst the traffic.
The theme continued well into the second half for the Pirates with chance after chance going for naught, among them being a quick counter four minutes in that finished with Jarrett launching a shot from 23 yards that narrowly flew past the upper corner of the goal.
The breakthrough finally came in the 62nd minute with a great build up with the possession initially working on the left side before seeing it quickly switched to the right, where Eric Espinoza crossed it into the six. After slipping by several players at the near post, the ball came to Engle, who buried with force from point blank range.
Instead, it was a free kick from midfield that stung the Bucs. Jake Baker sent a well-driven ball from the dead ball located just off the right sideline from about 50 yards right into the center of the area where Dylan Leathers was able to get his head onto it for the equalizer.
"They got a free kick from a handball - I don't know how that happened; it's a questionable, maybe, call that they got a handball. But, that does not matter at all. We weren't great on marking and they found a player. One chance was all they needed; they had a couple chances in the game."
Then the Wildcats nearly took the lead two minutes later when Watters was caught out of the goal. Leathers got to the ball about 25 yards out on the left side but in the excitement of the open chance shanked his shot well wide.
Not content for the draw, the Pirates continued to go at the visitors, even sending numbers forward with plenty of space being given to them.
"We did, but we didn't good decisions in the attacking third," Cathey said of the Pirates going at Linfield full-throttle the entire match, but not taking advantage of it. "There wasn't enough activity in the box - players walking when they should be attacking space. That will show through on film. Yeah, you can attack into space when there is space to attack into - it's easy. Any little kid can run with the ball. Let's make good decisions in the attacking half to make good runs off of each other. I thought some players took the opportunities and made some good runs, but some players got lost in the game for big moments of time when they needed to be accounted for, and they made bad decisions at big moments in the game."
That allowed Linfield a few more opportunities to grab a winner with Diaz missing high on a first-time effort from about nine yards on a ball sent in from the left with six minutes left.
In overtime, the Pirates continued to control the possession, but Linfield did not just sit back.
Whitworth got the first look less than a minute in when Colin Shockman sent a shot from the top of the box that squeezed through the hands of Grant Loriaux, who recovered to grab the loose ball.
Then Ivan Collin put a shot just over the goal for Linfield with less than a minute left in the first period and a quick shot from inside the box in the 104th by Brian DeGrandmont was stopped with a nice diving save by Watters.
The final and best chance for the Pirates to grab the win came in the 107th when Spencer Wolfe ripped an unexpected 33-yard ball from the left side that the keeper leaped to tip over, sending it caroming off the crossbar to deny the victory.
"We have now the opportunity to test our character. Character is nothing unless you are challenged, and a lot of our guys were faced with a challenge and there were a lot of guys that did not respond well. And that for me is a great learning experience, and they weren't ready; their character wasn't ready to be tested.