SALEM, Ore. - Leaning heavily on the poise and experience of its veteran players, Pacific Lutheran kept its lead in the Northwest Conference men's soccer standings with a second half rally that led to a 2-1 victory over Willamette on Saturday afternoon.
The Lutes, ranked No. 19 in NCAA Division III men's soccer, were staring at their second conference loss of the season to upstart Willamette, at least until a pair of goals inside the final 35 minutes netted the victory. The win was the eighth in a row for the Lutes, who tied a PLU men's soccer program record set by the 1987 team.
With the victory, PLU improves to 12-2 overall and 9-1 in the conference. Willamette, which surprised the Lutes by a 2-1 score at PLU on Sept. 18, is now 5-6-2 overall and 4-5-1 in the conference.
The Bearcats took a 1-0 lead 14:12 into the match when Trevor Jensen scored his second goal of the season. He took a pass from Adan Vazquez about 12 away from the the goal and slotted it into the lower right corner, past the reach of PLU keeper Joe Rayburn.
Employing a physical brand of soccer that saw it pick up three yellow cards in addition to 18 fouls to PLU's four, Willamette kept the Lutes from getting many good looks in the opening 45 minutes. At the intermission, the hosts held a 5-2 advantage in shots.
Spencer Augustin tied the match at 55:53, knocking home his conference-leading 13th goal of the season with the assist going to Surafel Wodajo, his school-record 14th of the campaign. Wodajo broke the previous record of 13 set by Jay Pettit in 2003. Earlier this season, Wodajo surpassed Pettit atop the PLU career assists table.
Augustin and Wodajo are both among the Division III national leaders in their respective categories.
The Lutes picked up the deciding goal at 80:28 when Lucas McCallum scored from about eight yards out, the assist going to Chad Kearns. The goal was the fifth of the season for McCallum, and for Kearns it was his fourth assist.
In an effort to tie the match, Willamette had a pair of shots and a corner kick in the final five minutes, but it was for naught.
Joe Rayburn recorded three saves for the Lutes, while Willamette keeper Alfredo Zuniga had the same number. Willamette ended up with a 10-8 advantage in shots and a 4-3 lead in corner kicks.
PLU goes for its school-record ninth straight win on Sunday when it plays at Linfield in McMinnville, Ore.
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