Pirates pass tough road test, remain unbeaten

The 10th-ranked Whitworth men’s soccer team remained undefeated on their road trip to western Washington last weekend, having tied University of Puget Sound 0-0 in two overtimes on Saturday and beating Pacific Lutheran 1-0 on Sunday. These two matches put the Pirates two games clear of PLU in the Northwest Conference standings with only five games remaining for each team in the regular season. It was the Bucs’ second meeting with both teams, and both games yielded nearly exact results as the previous matches. In a scrappy, foul-happy match-up only two weekends prior at the Whitworth soccer field, Whitworth and UPS fought once again to a similar 2OT scoreless draw. The most recent match, however, was a more even one in terms of shots and fouls, with both teams posting similar numbers.

Each team had six shots in the game, but the Bucs failed to get any of those shots on target. It was the second game in a row that the Pirates had been outnumbered in shots on goal, and only the second time all season. However, the defense felt they played one of their better games.

“Defense starts up front and through the midfield,” junior defender Andrew Flint said. “We just defended well as a team.” The Pirates once again did not allow a goal against UPS, and posted their 10th shutout in 12 games this season. The Bucs’ senior goalkeeper Kyle Novak continues to lead the conference in goals against per game, goals against on the season, and save percentage, which is at .935.

“When it comes down to it, he makes big plays,” Flint said. “He has three years of experience under his belt and it makes everyone back there more comfortable.”

Another continuance from the first matchup between these two teams was the number of fouls. Last Saturday’s game provided 32 total fouls, seven more than the teams’ last meeting. The foul count was the second highest the Pirates have seen all year.

“There were more opportunities for fouls with two overtimes and a slippery surface,” Whitworth head coach Sean Bushey said. “But the fouls just go along with the intensity of the game.”

Sunday’s game slated second place PLU against the first place Bucs. The last meeting between the teams saw the Pirates come back from being down 2-1 with just over 30 minutes remaining and win 3-2.

Although the Pirates pulled out the victory, they were out-shot once again, marking the third game in a row that has occurred. However, Novak saved all six shots on goal taken by PLU.

The Whitworth goal came in the 38th minute of play, as freshman forward Samuel Engle fired a shot from six yards out and put the Bucs up 1-0.

“Mike Chavez and the center back were scrapping for the ball,” Engle said. “I ran in hoping the ball would pop out and it fell between us so I poked it past him.”

It was Engle’s fourth goal of the season, just behind the team’s leading goal-scorer, sophomore forward Robby Ubben with five. With only five games to play and the second and third place teams already played twice, the Pirates’ are setting their sights on an outright Northwest Conference title.

“There is still work to be had,” Bushey said, looking forward to the rest of the regular season. “This is an important weekend coming up, we want to keep our advantage.”

The Pirates are back at home this weekend, hosting Pacific (4-10, 2-7 NWC) on Saturday at 2:30 pm, and George Fox (2-11-1, 2-7 NWC) on Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

Korey Hope Staff Writer

Contact Korey Hope at khope16@my.whitworth.edu.