by Jessica Razanadrakoto
The men’s soccer team took home two conference wins against UPS and PLU last weekend, and take the number two spot in the NWC standings.
With their 2-1 loss against Puget Sound on Oct. 6 fresh on their minds, the Pirates approached the game last Saturday with something to prove.
“We came out like we wanted to. We were a little frustrated with how we lost last time to pretty much identical goals against us, so we needed to fix one or two things,” sophomore forward Karl Muelheims said.
The Pirates practiced a couple of technical tactics to complete their plays, head coach Morgan Cathey said.
“We worked through different patterns that we felt were going to be effective against both of these teams: how we play, where we want to dictate the play, where we want to look to keep position, and where we think holes in their defense are,” Cathey said.
The team found success in the 13th minute of the game. Freshman midfielder Rylan Berriman dribbled the ball up the left side of the field, broke through the defenders, passed it to junior forward Robby Ubben, cutting from the right side of the field, who then kicked the ball into the net.
“There was a lot of cohesiveness on the field,” senior forward Samuel Mean said. “Our team performed very strongly and controlled the ball well, we moved the ball well around the field, spotted open spaces, and took advantage of when there was open opportunities, and finished.”
The Pirates’ goal for Saturday was to play the ball to the sides of the field to get behind the defense, Ubben said.
“The back and the midfield really controlled the game, got the balls out wide and we got so many crosses in compared to earlier games this season,” Ubben said. “This was one of our best games this year.”
Pirate defenders contained the Loggers’ offense effectively for the shutout, as Whitworth outshot Puget Sound 12-3 in the win.
On Sunday afternoon, the Pirates took on PLU and won 4-1.
Senior midfielder Sam Selisch’s sixth goal of the season gave the Pirates a lead in the third minute.
Selisch’s offensive adjustments accounted for Whitworth’s first goal, Cathey said.
“In his first couple of minutes in, we talked to [Sam] a lot about when he has space to really drive into the space and see what the backline does,” Cathey said. “He made two brilliant driving touches that bit the midfield pressure and quickly found himself in the backline and the goalkeeper didn’t see his shot. He had a great finish with his left foot in the opposite corner.”
The Pirates created some good chances in the first 15 minutes of the game, but did not finish, Cathey said.
Sophomore defender David Starkovich found the ball inside the penalty box, where he was fouled by defenders, giving the Pirates a penalty kick. Senior defender Balin Larson took the penalty kick and put the ball in the back of the right side of the net.
“Balin’s penalty was brilliant. I haven’t seen him taking a penalty yet and I thought it was very calm and composed,” Cathey said. “He hit it at the right pace that the goalkeeper guessed the right way. [But] you want somebody who no matter where he hits the ball, even if the goalkeeper guesses, you want it to still have enough pace and direction that it’s going to go in.”
Thirty-four minutes into the game, sophomore midfielder Spencer Wolfe kicked the ball toward the net on a free kick. The ball deflected off a defender’s head, and into the goal. Considered an own goal because it was last touched by a PLU player, the Pirates extended their lead to three goals.
“When you put in a goal very early on in the game, it relaxes,” Cathey said. “We were able to really dictate the game. They are a very good team and I knew that they wouldn’t stop fighting, but we are a little bit more clinical in our finishing.”
A few minutes into the second half, senior midfielder Giancarlo Santoro dribbled around two Buc defenders and put the ball in the back of the net for PLU’s only score of the contest.
Whitworth’s last goal came off of a corner kick. The ball was kicked to the far post and sophomore forward Sam Engle approached it, jumped, and headed it into the net.
“It was a very big weekend for us just to achieve what we want to achieve in our goals and the visions for the year,” Cathey said. “The end of the year’s standings are out of our control but what’s in our control is just how we play, what we bring to the game, what we bring to training, and I thought this was a great week. We thoroughly deserved the result we got because of how we played.”
The Pirates improve to 8-3-2 overall, and 6-2-1 in the NWC after last weekend, and will play at Pacific Oct. 25.
Contact Jessica Razanadrakoto at email@example.com