PARKLAND – A pair of tough nonconference road trips have set up the Pacific Lutheran women's soccer team for its first Northwest Conference test of the 2013 season, as the Lutes host No. 13 Puget Sound in Saturday's home opener at 12 p.m.
Pacific Lutheran returned home from California last weekend with a split against Occidental and Whittier and a 2-2 overall record. Saturday's conference opener could present the Lutes with their toughest opponent yet, as UPS has won 11 consecutive conference championships and has not lost to PLU since 1998.
"We're excited to open up at home this Saturday against University of Puget Sound," PLU head coach Seth Spidahl said. "We certainly know that we're up for a good game. We're looking at it as a measuring stick to see how far our program has come from last year."
The Lutes have a long history against their cross-town rivals, stretching back to the second year of the women's soccer program in 1982. Pacific Lutheran followed a seven-match loss streak to the Loggers with a nine-match win streak from 1988 through 1993. The Loggers began a 27-match win streak against the Lutes in 1998 that the Lutes finally ended last season with a 2-2 draw in the teams' first meeting of the season before UPS won the second matchup 3-0.
This season the Loggers boast a 2-1 record, with wins over Hardin-Simmons and Warner Pacific and a 3-1 loss to sixth-ranked Trinity. Annie Jonsson's two goals lead the team, while four other players have each scored once.
For the Lutes, freshman Kaylie Rozell and senior Samantha Benner each have a pair of PLU's seven total goals this season. Blake Warner leads the team with a pair of assists and Marisa Gonzalez has played 288:40 in goal while making 16 saves and allowing a 1.25 goal against average.
Last weekend, Pacific Lutheran took its first trip to California in several years and suffered a heartbreaking double-overtime loss to Occidental before getting back into the win column with a 2-0 victory the next day at Whittier. With the travel and heat playing a role in the difficulties, Spidahl saw a lot of positives from the experience.
"It was a successful road trip in our minds," Spidahl said. "We had a really hot hard-fought game against Occidental that we lost in the 109th minute, but I was really proud of how we battled. I was even more proud of how we responded on Sunday against Whittier. For us to bounce back and win 2-0 and be really convincing in the win was a great way to finish the trip."