SPOKANE, Wash. – Whitworth men's soccer will close out the regular season on Saturday (3:00 pm) when the Pirates play at Whitman. The Northwest Conference-champion Bucs will use the match as a tune up for the 2012 NCAA Division III tournament.
The 14th-ranked Pirates (13-1-3 overall, 10-1-2 NWC) clinched the conference championship on the road last weekend with a 1-0 win at Linfield on Sunday. On Saturday the Bucs suffered their first loss of the season – 3-2 at Willamette in double overtime.
Whitman will provide live statistics of Saturday's match.
The Pirates: Willamette handed Whitworth its first loss of the season last Saturday – 3-2 in double overtime in Salem, Oregon. The Pirates rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the second half to force overtime, despite playing a man down because of a red card. Robby Ubben got Whitworth on the board in the 61st minute with his seventh goal of the season, heading in a cross from Spencer Wolfe. Balin Larson then converted a penalty kick in the 83rd minute to tie the match. But Willamette's Austin Jacobson scored in the first minute of the second overtime period to give the Bearcats their first victory over Whitworth since 2002 and end a streak of 20 consecutive losses to the Pirates.
Whitworth's match at Linfield on Sunday didn't go off as originally scheduled when the referees ruled that the field conditions were unplayable because of heavy rains. The game was quickly moved to McMinnville High School and kicked off at 4:00 pm. After a scoreless first half, Karl Muelheims got the Pirates on the board in the 51st minute with his third goal of the season on a pass from Andrew Flint. That goal stood up as Whitworth held on for a 1-0 victory that clinched the conference championship.
Been There Before: 2012 marks Whitworth's seventh NWC men's soccer title over the last nine years and eighth overall under head coach Sean Bushey. Whitworth has won a total of 11 conference championships in men's soccer dating back to 1989, with three of those coming under former coach Einar Thorarinsson.
Defensively Dominant: Whitworth continues to rank highly among Division III schools in defensive statistics. The Pirates are second in shutout percentage (.760) in Division III and fourth in team goals-against average (0.39). Whitworth leads the NWC in both categories by a wide margin.
Goalkeeper Kyle Novak currently ranks fourth in NCAA Division III men's statistics with a 0.29 goals-against average and 13th in save percentage (.872).
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 team goals-against average for the season.
Balance: While the Whitworth offense finally broke through this past weekend, it has been balanced all season. Ten different players have accounted for the Pirates' 27 goals. Robby Ubben leads with seven goals, while Samuel Engle and Andrew French have four each. Whitworth has scored 11 goals in the first half and 16 goals in the second half and overtime periods.
You-Been-Beat: To say that Robby Ubben's 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 with seven goals. But most important, five 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 one-goal wins against Corban and George Fox. He also scored the first goal in an eventual 3-1 win over Pacific and the first goal in Whitworth's overtime loss at Willamette.
Nationally-ranked: Whitworth is 14th in this week's NSCAA Division III national rankings – down three positions from last week. The Bucs moved down to 105th 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 10-1-2 Whitworth is alone in first place with 31 points. Pacific Lutheran (9-3-1) is in second place with 28 points. Even if the Lutes win on Saturday and Whitworth loses at Whitman, PLU could only get to 31 total points – which means the Pirates have clinched the title.
The Opponents: Whitman comes into Saturday's match with an overall record of 7-8-4 and an NWC mark of 5-5-3 and averages of 1.3 goals scored per game and 1.08 goals-against average. The Missionaries have dropped some hard-luck decisions, not the least of which was a 1-0 defeat at Whitworth on October 6th when Robby Ubben scored the match-winner late in the second overtime. Last week Whitman won 4-3 at Linfield then tied 1-1 at Willamette. Leland Mattaeus leads the Missionaries with five goals and five assists this season, while Junpei Tsuji has added four goals.
The Coach: Sean Bushéy is in his 17th season as head coach of the Pirates in 2012. He has a 219-90-36 record in his 18th season as a head men's soccer coach (209-84-36 at Whitworth) and has led the Pirates to seven Northwest Conference titles in the last nine years, and eight 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 187-56-29 (.742).
Coming Up: The Bucs will find out when and where they open the 2012 NCAA Division III men's soccer tournament when the field is announced on Monday at 10:00 am (PST). Fans can watch a live online broadcast of the announcment.