SPOKANE, Wash. – The Whitworth men's soccer team faces an important home weekend as the Pirates continue to drive toward a Northwest Conference championship. The Pirates will host Pacific (Ore.) and George Fox in their final regular-season home contests of 2012 this Saturday and Sunday.
The 9th-ranked Pirates earned four important points in the NWC standings on the road last weekend with a draw at third-place Puget Sound and a 1-0 win at second-place Pacific Lutheran.
Live links for this weekend's matches –
The Pirates: For the second time this season Puget Sound and Whitworth played to a 0-0 tie when the teams met on Saturday afternoon in Tacoma. Both teams came up with six shots each and Robbie Ubben led the Pirates with two of those attempts. Kyle Novak made one save and there was a team save by a Whitworth defender as the Bucs posted their 10th clean sheet of the season. The Pirates finished 2012 with a 0-0-2 record against the Loggers.
Samuel Engle intercepted a pass deep in PLU territory and converted it into his fourth goal of the season in the 38th minute to give Whitworth a 1-0 win in Parkland on Sunday afternoon. Kyle Novak posted three saves in each half for a total of six stops to preserve the win and his 11th shutout of 2012. The win moved the Pirates four points clear of the Lutes in the NWC soccer standings. Whitworth finished with a 2-0 record against PLU in 2012 after dropping both contests to the Lutes in 2011.
Novak Makes it Three: Kyle Novak has been selected as the NWC Defensive Student-Athlete of the Week in men's soccer for the third time this season. He posted two shutouts and made a total of seven saves in last week's contests. He had previously been selected on October 9th and September 4th.
Senior Recognition: Whitworth will honor its senior class of 2012-13 during Sunday's match with George Fox. The five seniors to be recognized are: Nate Bell, Justin Mikkola, Kekoa Mountcastle, Kyle Novak, Eric Wonn and Ryan Wood.
Defensively Dominant: Whitworth continues to rank highly among Division III schools in defensive statistics. The Pirates are second in Division III in goals-against average (0.22) and second in shutout percentage (.850). Whitworth leads the NWC in both categories by a wide margin.
Goalkeeper Kyle Novak is currently ranked second in Division III statistics with a 0.15 goals-against average and second in save percentage (.935).
Whitworth's defensive numbers have a chance to shatter the previous single-season records set in 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' 15 goals. Robby Ubben and Samuel Engle lead with four, while Will Wren has three goals.
You-Been-Beat: To say that Robby Ubben's four goals have been timely is to say that soccer is a popular sport played all around the world. Ubben leads the Pirates in scoring this season. But most important, all four of his goals have been match-winners. His winner on October 6th came in the second overtime against Whitman. His winner against PLU came with less than seven minutes to play in regulation. He has also posted match-winners in games against Corban and George Fox.
Nationally-ranked: Whitworth moved up to 9th in this week's NSCAA Division III national rankings – up one position. The Bucs dropped one spot to 12th in the D3soccer.com top-25 poll and are 2nd behind top-ranked Trinity (Texas) 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 7-0-2 Whitworth is alone in first place with 23 points. Pacific Lutheran (6-2-1) is in second place with 19 points, while Puget Sound (4-1-4) has 16 points.
The Opponents: Pacific (Ore.) is 4-10 overall and 2-7 in the Northwest Conference coming into Saturday's match. The Boxers, who average 1.6 goals for and 2.21 goals-against this season, defeated Linfield 3-2 at home last Friday night before falling 3-0 at Willamette on Sunday. Junior Nick Rudella leads his team with five goals and one assist (11 points) this season. Sophomore Alex Arrington has had a good all-around season with three goals and three assists (9 points). Whitworth defeated Pacific 2-0 in Forest Grove on September 23rd as Samuel Engle scored his first two goals of the season to lead the Pirates to victory.
Heading into their match at Whitman on Saturday, the George Fox Bruins are 2-11-1 overall and 2-7 in the NWC. The Bruins average 0.7 goals per match this season and have a team goals-against average of 2.45. Last week GFU lost 1-0 at home to Willamette on Saturday and 3-0 at home to Linfield on Sunday. A pair of sophomores lead the Bruins in scoring this season: Luke Hammer has four goals and Myles Sorokovsky has three goals. Whitworth earned a hard-fought 1-0 win at GFU on September 22nd on Robbie Ubben's goal in the 31st minute.
The Coach: Sean Bushéy is in his 17th season as head coach of the Pirates in 2012. He has a 216-89-36 record in his 18th season as a head men's soccer coach (206-83-36 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 184-55-29 (.741).
Coming Up: The Bucs will travel to take on Willamette and Linfield next Saturday and Sunday in the second-to-last weekend of the 2012 season.