Monday, October 19, 2015

Muelheims guides Whitworth to big weekend sweep

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Two weeks ago, the perfect Pirates of Whitworth were handed their first blemish of the season on the road by George Fox with a 1-1 draw. They finished the first half of the Northwest Conference campaign 6-0-1 a week later. On Saturday they opened the second half of their league slate against the Bruins and made a huge statement with a thoroughly dominant performance that finished in a 6-0 scoreline. On Sunday they followed it up with a 3-0 win. Oh, and Karl Muelheims netted a hat-trick in both matches.

The Pirates controlled the contest from the opening whistle and were regularly threatening the Bruins goal, but it would take over a half-hour before they would finally break through. A corner kick in the 34th led to the opening goal when the ball served in from the left by Jonah Snyder met was headed down by Sam Engle at the far side of the six to Tyler Cardinale. His shot from five yards was blocked, rebounding back to Engle, who dished it forward to Muelheims (Spokane, WA), who took a touch and then poked it past the scrambling goalkeeper.

And it was a monumental goal as it came via a corner kick.

"We measure four things in our program as far as our process of how we play, and one of those is our set piece conversion ratio," said Whitworth Head Coach Morgan Cathey. "Today we scored three from set pieces. The first two and then we had a free kick, and one kind of off of a throw-in - so almost four goals. And we havn't had one goal from a corner kick this year. I kept telling the guys, just believe that when it comes, its gonna keep comin. So to see them respond in that way was awesome. Really proud of our guys on the set piece side."

Muelheims then pushed the lead to two in the 42nd minute on a free kick from Snyder from about three yards out from the left edge of the box and the endline. Snyder delivered a low, driven ball to the six that Muelheims rushed in on and one-touched inside the near post.

He finished the hat-trick less than 12 minutes after his first goal, and less than a minute before the break, connecting off a through ball from Eric Espinoza. His second hat-trick of the year - the first coming in a 9-0 win versus UM-Morris in early September - pushed his tally to 12 on the year.

"Sometimes there are moments in the game where I look and say 'is he really doing everything he can for the side' as far as sometimes he's walking, and sometimes it looks like he's disengaged. But man, when the ball is around him, he is so dangerous and just so engaged. He's so quick to get his body in front of the player that he needs to.

"I thought he should have had two more today. He was so deceptive today, and he deceived me at times because I looked and thought he's got to move more; and then boom - he gets a goal. I am just so proud of him. He is one that it's been a four-year process for him to get to this point. It's not just having one good training session and he's rewarded; he's been working his tail off for four years. There's not one guy on the team that I would want that kind of success for - he's fantastic. His work-rate is amazing.

The Pirates came out in the second half and quickly put the match away with Sam Engle finding Espinoza for his first of the year in the 55th minute on a play that saw the team run off a quick series of passes on the right half of the field before it made its way into the six for the finish.

A few moments later Whitworth switched out nearly its entire lineup, but continued to present a constant threat in the offensive third, adding two more goals in the next six minutes.

Tanner Stepp scored on a free kick in the 59th minute and then two minutes later fed Johnny Thayer for the final tally of the game.

"If you look at the stats, we had 26 shots to eight. I think we had 29 the last time we played them, but our shot conversion ratio is... much, much better. We also six corner kicks, and we finished one of those. Last time we had 14 corner kicks and we didn't finish any. We were more clinical and we had a stronger desire to score today - and that came across.

"Our guys were super-hungry to score and its the biggest result we've had other than UM-Morris this year. For me, honestly there have been times where I have wondered do we have that conviction to really score in droves. Put a team under and not just leave them in a game at 2-0 or 1-0, but really put them away when we can. I thought they really started to drop like flies - they were either not interested after the third goal or were injured, but it showed. We just kept pushing and pushing and pushing, and that was really good.

The domination continued in a 3-0 win Sunday where the Pirates outshot Pacific 20-5 and took the lead two-and-a-half minutes in. Muelheims needed more than 12 minutes this time, however, to complete the hat-trick, getting his second in the 33rd minute and putting the match out of reach with the final goal in the 63rd.

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