by Josiah Van Wingerden
The women’s soccer team posted two crucial victories last weekend, defeating the Pacific University Boxers and Linfield Wildcats at the Whitworth Soccer Field. The team’s overall record improved to 5-7 (4-4 NWC) as they leapfrogged four teams into third place in the Northwest Conference.
A late goal by junior forward McKenzie Hemp in the second half pushed the Pirates past the Boxers on Saturday, 1-0. It was Hemp’s first goal of the season, off of an assist from fellow junior forward Leah Corra, who posted her first assist of the season.
The Pirates started the game slow, attempting just two shots total and no corner kicks in the first half. However, the team came out strong in the second half, putting seven shots near the goal.
“Coach [Bryan Olson] told us to forget the first half. We played such a great half and even though we played good soccer, we still had another half to play,” Hemp said. “We just needed to come out and play even better soccer in the second half and I think we did that.”
The team finished the game with 15 total shots, compared to the Boxers’ five.
“We were able to take the message [we had] in the beginning of the game and say, ‘ok, what did we learn in the first half?’” Head Coach Bryan Olson said. “We were able to see what spaces we were able to exploit and take fuller advantage of them in the second half.”
Sunday’s game against the Linfield Wildcats also proved to be a challenge for the Pirates, the team was behind 1-0 at the end of the first half. However, the team rallied in the second half and scored two goals to win the game and remain undefeated at home on the season.
Sophomore Kelly Wucherer scored in the 64th minute of action from her midfield position to tie the game at 1-1. Then sophomore forward Ari Van Peursem scored the game-winner, her fourth goal of the season, in the 83rd minute to secure the win for the Pirates.
“Patience was huge for us because we know that the way we play is a lot of possession and we build up from the back to get goals and if we chose to be impatient, I don’t think we would’ve won the game,” Van Peursem said.
The Pirates fired 24 total shots, 11 of which were on goal, while holding the Wildcats to just four shot attempts. Despite striking on an early opportunity, Linfield was held in check in the second half, failing to even get off a shot.
Additionally, Whitworth held a 3-1 advantage in corner kicks, which helped the team create chances in the box. The Pirates wore down their opponent, taking advantage of key personnel rotations and use of depth, something the Wildcats could not match.
“It’s great to know as a coach that you can look down the players on the sideline, and truly believe in all of them,” Olson said. “We do use more players than most [teams] because we do have that belief, and we want to instill in them freedom to go out and play.”
Next weekend, the Pirates will host the Pacific Lutheran Lutes and the Puget Sound Loggers.