Whitman women savor OT soccer win, gear up for defending champs

Monday, Sep 24, 2012

WALLA WALLA ­— The University of Puget Sound has won the past 10 women’s Northwest Conference soccer championships, and Whitman College hasn’t defeated the Loggers since 1998.

Two good reasons why the Missionaries will keep their collective nose to the grindstone this week in practice as they prepare for the defending champs’ Saturday invasion of the Whitman College campus. Kickoff is slated for high noon.

“I think we are in a good, positive state of mind going into the weekend,” third-year Whitman coach Heather Cato said. “We’re still enjoying the feeling of Sunday’s win, and we’re going to concentrate this week on what we need to do to beat UPS. That is the driving thing this week.”

The Missionaries are coming off a 1-0 overtime victory over George Fox University Sunday in Newberg, Ore., in which Clara Merlino booted the winning goal just 32 seconds into the extra session. The victory enabled Whitman to salvage a split of its weekend road trip after the Whits had dropped a 1-0 decision at Pacific University Saturday in Portland.

“An overtime win is always good,” Cato said. “But I thought we played well both days. We just made a few mistakes on Saturday — mistakes the other team capitalized on — that we didn’t make on Sunday.”

Cato singled out the play of sophomore midfielder Justine Kovak (Portland, Ore.) during Sunday’s victory.

“Justine had an amazing game,” Cato said. “She had one of the best games that I have seen her play.

“But I also thought that our entire back line played really well over the weekend.”

Merlino, a freshman from Seattle, scored her game-winning goal from 18 yards out in overtime after Whitman’s Marissa Poorboy, a senior from Hayden, Idaho, had tied the game at 1-1 at the 66:13 mark. Merlino’s goal was assisted by freshman Brianna Brown (Vancouver, Wash.), who passed the ball up the middle on Whitman’s first possession of OT.

Senior Jaclyn Rudd (Seattle) triggered Poorboy’s scoring play with an arching corner kick from the left into the middle of the box. Junior Taylor Thomas (Woodinville, Wash.) and Kovak each got one-touches on the ball before Poorboy finished the play with a shot to the upper left corner for her first goal of the season.

After a scoreless first half, the Bruins drew first blood when Michelle Young rifled an indirect free kick from 20 yards out near the left corner of the keeper’s box inside the near post two-and-a-half minutes into the second period. It was Young’s second score of the season.

Whitman finished with a 17-10 advantage in total shots, 10-6 in shots on goal and 5-3 in corner kick opportunities. Davis earned the win with five saves, while Swanson suffered the hard-luck loss but made eight saves.

Whitman improved to 2-3 in league matches and 3-6 overall. George Fox remained winless in league play at 0-5 and settled to 1-6-2 overall.

Pacific Lutheran University (2-2-1, 4-2-3) will follow UPS into town Sunday after a Saturday match at Whitworth. The Pirates are currently atop the NWC standings with a 5-0-0 record after losing all four of their non-league games.

“UPS and Linfield are usually in the top three in our league,” Cato said. “But PLU is better than in the past, so it is going to be a tough weekend.

“But I feel like we can handle it,” she added. If we play the way we did on Sunday, we have a great opportunity to come out of the weekend 2-0.”