By Christian Bond, Guest Writer
Rivalry games are one of the best parts of college sports, and rivalry games with conference implications are even better.
The Pacific Lutheran University women’s Soccer team had a chance to take a three-point lead at the summit of the Northwest Conference.
That was exactly what they did as they beat the University of Puget Sound 3-1 Wednesday, Oct. 29 on PLU’s East Field.
With both teams sitting at the top of the conference standings, coaches, players and fans knew the game would be great.
The first half was evenly matched. Back-up junior goalkeeper Bryce Kennedy was able to step up big with clutch save after clutch save for the Lutes.
Both teams had their chances, but the first half ended in a 0-0 tie.
Coach Seth Spidahl was proud of his defensive squad.
“Bryce Kennedy, who had not played yet in the regular season as a goalkeeper, stepped up to play really well because Takara [Mitsui] was out with a concussion.”
Spidahl also highlighted the play of PLU’s back four, comprised of sophomores Kelly White and Lena Moreno, first-year Megan Anderson, and junior Nicoya Benham-Marin, saying they all did well.
Coming out of the half, the sense of urgency to get on the board first was apparent.
In the 53rd minute, the Lutes got a chance on a corner kick.
Moreno sent a beautiful ball across the front of the goal into a crowd of players.
Out of nowhere, first-year Hailey Smoot was able to leap over everyone in her way and head the ball just under the cross bar and into the back of the net.
The scoring did not stop there.
In the 69th minute, senior Blake Warner was able to send a pass right in front of the goal.
Waiting there was first-year Machaela Graddy, who was able to skip the ball into the bottom left corner of the goal.
This put the Lutes up 2-0, and much closer to winning a conference championship.
UPS was not ready to give up, however.
In the 79th minute, senior Robin Vieira of the Loggers was able to send in an absolute laser past the Lute keeper.
Although the goal was impressive, the Loggers remained down 2-1 with about 10 minutes left in the game.
To add an exclamation point to a stellar game from the PLU women’s Soccer team, junior Lauren Larson was able to add another goal in the 87th minute.
Larson received a pass from junior Emily Hanna, and from the top of the box put one past the Logger keeper, all but assuring the win for the Lutes.
“I thought we played good and deserved to win, and it wasn’t like we scored and then hung on to win by defending,” Spidahl said. “Our energy, focus, concentration and discipline was as good as it’s been all season.”
The Lutes traveled to Pacific Saturday, Nov. 1 and came away with a 2-1 win in second overtime, courtesy of a golden goal by sophomore forward Kailey Rozell.
With the wins, PLU improved its NWC record to 12-2 and 14-3-1 overall.
Pacific fell to 3-10-1 in NWC and 6-11-1 overall.
Sitting in first place with a three-point cushion above second-place UPS, PLU could win the conference title outright with two wins when they travel to Oregon to face Willamette and third-place Linfield Saturday Nov. 7 and Sunday Nov. 8.
Both games start at 11 a.m.