Every Match a Must Win for Lutes
THIS WEEK: Pacific Lutheran hosts the Pacific Boxers at 1:30 p.m. Saturday and the George Fox Bruins at 1:30 p.m. Sunday in key Northwest Conference matches.
MUST WINS: The Pacific Lutheran men's soccer team faces a must win situation in each of its final three regular season matches if it has any hope of winning the program's first Northwest Conference title since 1992. Unquestionably, Saturday's match against visiting Pacific is huge as the visiting Boxers are in a tie with Whitworth for first in the conference standings. Both Pacific and Whitworth have 26 points on 8-1-2 records while PLU sits in third with 24 points on an 8-3-0 record. A Pacific win on Saturday and the resulting three points for the Boxers would make it extremely unlikely - though not mathematically impossible - for the Lutes to win the conference title. A tie would be a wash for both teams, but would be a huge benefit for Whitworth if the Pirates win their Saturday afternoon match at Willamette. If the Lutes win, however, they would leapfrog the Boxers and give themselves a real chance at the title. The conference champion earn an automatic berth in the national playoffs, while any other postseason hopeful would need to get an at-large bid from the national tournament committee.
THE REST OF THE SCHEDULE: In addition to playing Pacific on Saturday, the Lutes close out the 2009 regular season with home matches against George Fox this Sunday and against the Puget Sound Loggers next Saturday, Nov. 7. Pacific plays all three of its remaining matches on the road - at PLU Saturday, at Puget Sound on Sunday and at George Fox next Saturday. Whitworth plays at Willamette and Linfield this weekend and hosts Whitman next Saturday.
THE FIRST TIME: Pacific knocked off Pacific
Lutheran, 1-0, the first time the teams played each other back on
Oct. 4 in Forest Grove, Ore. Pacific outshot the Lutes 14-11 and
had a 6-5 advantage in shots on goal. Pacific Lutheran held a
4-2 edge in corner kicks.
Brian Kostol made five saves in the loss.
ABOUT THE BOXERS: The Boxers (12-2-2 overall) enter Saturday's contest having won eight of their last nine, the only blemish being last Sunday's 0-0 double-overtime tie with the Whitworth Pirates. Pacific has shut out seven straight opponents, a testimony to a great defense anchored by the conference's best goalkeeper, Andrew Stevermer. The lanky Wyoming native has compiled some incredible numbers this year, allowing only five goals for a 0.35 goals against average. Pacific has allowed only seven goals in its 16 matches. The balanced offensive attack has produced 37 goals this season, with 12 different players putting the ball in the net and 14 getting their names in the assist column. Jasim Jaihouni leads the team with seven goals and he also has four assists. Travis Birrell has four goals and is tied for the team lead in assists at five with Avery Neal.
DON'T FORGET ABOUT THE BRUINS: PLU can't afford to spend so much time thinking about Saturday foe - Pacific - that it overlooks the George Fox Bruins, who are in town for a Sunday afternoon clash. The Bruins have won only two of their 11 conference matches this year, but one of those wins came on Oct. 3 in Newberg, Ore., when GFU stunned the Lutes, 2-1. The Lutes, ranked No. 25 in the country at the time, dominated in shots and corner kicks but still came out on the short end of the score line. Pacific Lutheran took 19 shots, including nine on goal, and limited the Bruins to just eight total shots, three on goal, but the hosts made the most of their chances. PLU also took seven corner kicks to just three for the Bruins. George Fox goalkeeper Jack Maguire collected six saves and his teammates back him up with two clearances of potential PLU goals.
ABOUT THE BRUINS: George Fox (5-11-0 overall) has been blanked in four of its last six matches, going 1-5 during that stretch. Brennan Altringer leads the team with five goals - he scored one against PLU - and he has three assists, while Zach Sanders has four goals and four assists. Jake Maguire has the most minutes in goal and has a 2.58 goals against average.
LUTE NOTES: PLU's goal scoring leaders are Chad Kearns with nine, Spencer Augustin with eight and Daniele Zaccagnini with seven. They are the highest trio of goal scorers in more than a decade and going back farther than that. In 1991, Jeff Ellis scored 14 goals, Andy McDirmid had eight and botyh Brad Uhlenhoff and Sean Mast added six. Most recently, the 2006 duo of Michael Ferguson (11 goals) and Baard Asker (10 goals) led the Lutes, while Ferguson (15) and Kevin Murray (15) were an unstoppable duo in 2005.
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