By Tyler Scott, PLU Athletics
PARKLAND – Pacific Lutheran clinched a top-three Northwest Conference spot and its first double-digit win season since 2006 with a 1-0 women’s soccer win over Willamette Friday morning at East Field.
Pacific Lutheran improved to 10-4-5 overall and 8-2-5 in conference play with the win, while Willamette fell to 4-12-3 overall and 2-10-3 in the NWC. The Lutes’ 29 points ranks behind only Puget Sound (38) and Linfield (34) in the conference standings and seven points ahead of Lewis & Clark (22) with one match remaining. The Lutes host Linfield Saturday at 11 a.m. to close out the 2013 season, with a Senior Day ceremony set for 15 minutes before kickoff to honor PLU seniors Samantha Benner, Kristi D’Alessandro, Alex Murray and Mariah Rasmussen.
Willamette provided PLU with a challenge as the Lutes aimed for their 10th win of the season. The teams finished with fairly even stat lines, including an even shot total of 9-9, and Willamette actually finished with five shots on goal to three for the Lutes. The Lutes’ best chance in the first half came in the eighth minute of play when Blake Warner‘s shot hit the crossbar, and the match was scoreless going into halftime.
“Our first half was really sluggish and slow,” PLU head coach Seth Spidahl said. “I don’t know if that’s because we played Friday at 11 a.m., but certainly we were not at our best. But we had a good halftime talk and sorted some things out and we had a much better second half.”
The Lutes finished the second half with a 4-2 corner kick advantage and picked up two of their three shots on goal following the break. Murray came up with the big shot for PLU, coming into the game in the 73rd minute and scoring just over a minute later. Murray took a pass from AJ Fisher about 15 yards in front of the goal and sent the ball to the upper right side of the net past Willamette keeper Emily Sewell for the score.
“It was a really tough game,” Spidahl said. “They’re a team that brings lots of energy, very competitive. They make it really hard to play against, so credit to them.”