SPOKANE, Wash. – Whitworth will close out the first half of the Northwest Conference men's soccer schedule by hosting Whitman College on Saturday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. The Pirates enter the weekend all alone in first place in the conference standings, but by a small margin over Pacific Lutheran and Puget Sound.
The 11th-ranked Pirates held their position atop the standings by earning and important win over PLU and a tie with UPS last weekend.
Live links to this weekend's matches:
The Pirates: Robby Ubben's goal in the 84th minute lifted Whitworth to a 3-2 victory over Pacific Lutheran on Saturday. The Pirates rallied from a 2-1 deficit in the second half, the first time Whitworth had trailed in a match all season. Samuel Engle's bicycle kick goal in the 11th minute had given the Bucs a 1-0 lead. But PLU tied the match in the 24th minute and then took the lead on a goal by Shane Gutierrez in the 57th minute. Will Wren set up Sam Selisch for the game-tying goal in the 67th minute. Ubben's goal was his third match-winner of the year.
Whitworth and Puget Sound played to a 0-0 draw on Sunday. The game was played mostly in the midfield with few good scoring opportunities for either team. Kekoa Mountcastle had the Pirates' best look at a goal with 18 minutes to play in the match, but his shot was inches too wide to the left. Kyle Novak posted his eighth shutout in net for the Bucs.
Defensively Dominant: Despite giving up two goals to Pacific Lutheran, which raised the number of goals allowed this season to three, Whitworth still ranks highly among Division III schools in defensive statistics. The Pirates are third in Division III in goals-against average (0.29) and are second in shutout percentage (.800). Whitworth leads the NWC in both categories by a wide margin.
Goalkeeper Kyle Novak is currently ranked second in Division III statistics with a 0.201 goals-against average and is tied for eighth in save percentage (.895).
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. Seven different players have accounted for the Pirates' 13 goals. Three different players – Will Wren, Robby Ubben and Samuel Engle – have three goals each. In addition, the Pirates have found balance in the matches, splitting their season total of 13 goals nearly equally with six in first half and seven in the second half.
Nationally-ranked: Whitworth remained 11th in this week's NSCAA Division III national rankings – the third week in a row at that spot for the Pirates. The Bucs moved up to 11th from 12th in the D3soccer.com top-25 poll and are 2nd in the NSCAA West Region ratings.
NWC Standings: The conference standings are based on a point system that awards three points for a win and one point with a tie. With a conference record of 5-0-1 Whitworth is alone in first place with 16 points. Pacific Lutheran (5-1) is right behind with 15 points, while Puget Sound (4-1-1) has 13 points. Whitman (2-3-1, 7 points), this week's opponent, can work its way back into the race by playing all three schools over the next two weeks.
The Opponents: Whitman comes into the week with an overall record of 4-6-2 and a Northwest Conference mark of 2-3-1. The Missionaries handed Puget Sound its first Northwest Conference loss on Saturday with a 2-1 overtime victory. Whitman then fell 2-1 to Pacific Lutheran on Sunday. Junior forward Leland Matthaeus has four goals and two assists this season. As a team the Missionaries average 1.2 goals per game and allow 1.27 goals against. Last year Whitworth defeated Whitman 2-1 in a hard-fought contest in Walla Walla, then the Pirates topped the Missionaries 3-1 in Spokane in the season finale.
The Coach: Sean Bushéy is in his 17th season as head coach of the Pirates in 2012. He has a 207-89-34 record after 17 seasons as a head men's soccer coach (197-83-33 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 have a quick turnaround against the Tacoma-area schools next weekend, playing at Puget Sound on Saturday and Pacific Lutheran on Sunday.