SPOKANE, Wash. – Whitworth continued its season-opening roll by posting clean sheets in its opening two Northwest Conference matches last weekend, improving to 5-0-1 overall and 2-0 in the NWC. The Pirates will be tested by their first conference road contests this coming weekend – Saturday at George Fox (Newberg, Ore.) and Sunday at Pacific (Forest Grove, Ore.).
Watch the Whitworth men's soccer schedule for links to live coverage of the games.
The Pirates: Whitworth opened its NWC schedule with a 2-0 win over visiting Linfield on Saturday. Will Wren scored both Pirate goals off of nicely executed set plays in the first half. His first goal came in the 15th minute when he headed in a free kick off of the foot of Mike Chavez. Then in the 26th minute he headed in a corner kick from Anders Nostdahl. The final score could have been much greater as Whitworth outshot Linfield 22-2 and did not allow either Wildcat shot to be on-goal. But Linfield keeper Scott Goodman made several difficult saves to keep his team in the match, including three attempts by Wren to pick up a hat trick in the second half.
Whitworth withstood a physical effort by visiting Willamette to come away with a 1-0 victory on Sunday. The Bearcats were whistled for three yellow cards and a pointless red card as time expired in the match. The rough tactics did not intimidate the Bucs and Will Wren sealed himself as the hero of the weekend when he fired home the winning goal in the 84th minute from near the top of the penalty area. Whitworth finished with a 13-5 advantage in total shots.
Larson Honored: Center back Balin Larson led a Whitworth defensive effort that limited Linfield and Willamette to only a single shot on-goal all weekend, helping the Pirates post a pair of shutout victories. For his efforts, Larson was selected as the NWC Men's Soccer Defensive Player of the Week.
Wren Flies High: Will Wren had a huge weekend, scoring all three Whitworth goals in two Pirate victories. His breakthrough is more remarkable because they were the first three goals of the junior's career. He finished second in voting for the NWC Men's Soccer Offensive Player of the Week award to Puget Sound's Landon Gauthier, who had four goals in two matches last week.
Nationally-ranked: Whitworth is moving up the national rankings with a bullet. The Pirates rose five spots from 16th to 11th in this week's NSCAA Division III national rankings. The Pirates are also 11th in the D3soccer.com top-25 poll and are 2nd in the NSCAA West Region ratings.
Stout Defense: Whitworth has allowed only a single goal in six matches this season, posting a team goals-against average of 0.16 – by far the lowest in the NWC so far this fall and currently ranked second in all of NCAA Division III. Goalkeeper Kyle Novak has not allowed a single goal to get by and has played all but one half of one match for the Pirates. He is currently tied for first in Division III statistics with a 0.00 goals-against average, but has played almost 125 minutes more than the next highest goalkeeper with a 0.00 GAA.
Whitworth's defensive numbers are the team's best since 2001 when the Pirates led all of NCAA Division III with a 0.59 goals-against average for the season.
The Opponents: George Fox is rebuilding under first-year head coach Luis Del Rio. The Bruins are 0-6-1 overall and 0-2 in the NWC following NWC season-opening losses at Pacific Lutheran (5-0) and Puget Sound (2-0) last weekend. GFU has struggled to find the net with only three goals scored in seven matches. Senior GK Elliot Davis has made 31 saves this season. Last year Whitworth defeated George Fox 4-0 in Newberg and 4-1 at home in Spokane.
Pacific University is 2-5 overall and also 0-2 in the NWC, but the Boxers have always been a difficult opponent to play on their own field. Last weekend Pacific opened with the tough road trip to Tacoma and fell 2-1 at Puget Sound and 2-0 at Pacific Lutheran. Quinton Love has three goals this season, while Mark Watson has posted two goals and two assists. Last season the Pirates swept the Boxers, winning 2-0 in Forest Grove and 4-0 in Spokane.
The Coach: Sean Bushéy is in his 17th season as head coach of the Pirates in 2012. He has a 206-89-33 record after 17 seasons as a head men's soccer coach (196-83-32 in 16 years at Whitworth) and has led the Pirates to six Northwest Conference titles in the last eight years, and seven NWC titles overall. He has been named Northwest Conference Men's Coach of the Year four times (2001, 2004, 2007, 2008). Over the last 12 years, the Whitworth men are 174-55-26 (.733).
Coming Up: The Bucs will host Pacific Lutheran (Oct. 22) and Puget Sound (Oct. 23) in what could become a pivotal Northwest Conference weekend. Both matches are scheduled to start at 2:30 pm following the conclusion of the women's matches.