SPOKANE, Wash. – Winning streaks and positions in the Northwest Conference men's soccer standings will collide this weekend when Whitworth hosts Pacific Lutheran and Puget Sound in a pair of key conference matchups on Saturday and Sunday. All three teams come into the weekend tied atop the NWC standings at 4-0 (12 points).
The 11th-ranked Pirates held their position atop the standings by earning road victories at George Fox and Pacific last weekend, both by shutout.
Live links to this weekend's matches:
The Pirates: Robby Ubben scored in the 31st minute and then Whitworth held on to defeat George Fox 1-0 on Saturday in Newberg, Oregon. The Bruins tested the Pirates with some early shots, forcing Kyle Novak to make a challenging early save. But once Ubben finished off a corner by Anders Nostdahl, the Pirates were in control and limited the GFU scoring chances from that point. Novak finished with three saves to post his sixth shutout of the season.
Samuel Engle scored two second-half goals to lift Whitworth to a 2-0 win at Pacific on Sunday. His first did not come until the 71st minute when he finished off a cross from Will Wren. Then he posted the match-clinching goal in the 87th minute after getting behind the defense on a pass from Colin Shockman. They were his first two goals of the season. The Whitworth defense limited the Boxers' scoring opportunities throughout the match and Novak was forced to make only one save for his seventh clean sheet of the season.
Nobody Does It Better: As of right now Whitworth has the best defensive statistics in all of the NCAA, at any level. The Pirates have a team goals-against average of 0.12 and have posted shutouts in 88% of their matches. No school at any of the three divisions can match those numbers. Marshall University (Div. I) has a goals-against average of 0.14. Swarthmore (Div. III) has also posted shutouts in 88% of its matches.
Goalkeeper Kyle Novak has not allowed a single goal to get by yet 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 200 minutes more than the one other 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.
Balance: While the Whitworth offense has not yet been spectacular this season, it has been balanced. Six different players have accounted for the Pirates' ten goals, led by Wren who has three. In addition, the Pirates have found balance in the matches, splitting their season total of ten goals equally with five in each half.
Wren Honored: One week after scoring three goals and just missing the NWC Men's Soccer Offensive Player of the Week award, Will Wren has been selected as the NWC Men's Soccer Defensive Player of the Week after leading the Pirate defense to a pair of shutout victories on the road. He helped make sure that Kyle Novak only had to face four shots on goal combined in the two matches.
Nationally-ranked: Whitworth remained 11th in this week's NSCAA Division III national rankings. The Pirates fell one spot to 12th in the D3soccer.com top-25 poll and are 2nd in the NSCAA West Region ratings.
The Opponents: Pacific Lutheran, the 2011 NWC co-champions with Whitworth and the recipient of the league's automatic berth to the NCAA tournament, comes into the week with a record of 5-3-1 overall and 4-0 in the NWC. The Lutes have found their offensive groove, averaging a league-best 1.9 goals per contest. Junior Derek Johnson leads the league in scoring with five goals and three assists, while freshman Emmanuel Amarh adds four goals and two assists. Last week PLU extended its current winning streak to four in a row with victories at Linfield (3-0 on Saturday) and Willamette (2-1 on Sunday). Last season the Lutes handed Whitworth a pair of 1-0 defeats to claim the tie-breaker for the NCAA playoff berth.
Puget Sound (7-1-1 overall, 4-0 NWC) heads into Saturday's match at Whitman on a seven-match winning streak. The Loggers, ranked 21st in this week's NSCAA poll, won at Willamette (2-0) and at Linfield (1-0) last weekend. UPS has impressive defensive numbers of their own with a 0.64 goals-against average and six shutouts to their credit. Landen Gauthier and Andrew White have scored three goals apiece this season. Whitworth beat Puget Sound twice last year, both by 3-0 scores.
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 Whitman College on October 6th in the Pirates' only scheduled contest of that weekend.