SPOKANE, Wash. – What a difference a week makes. After an 0-4 start against a brutal non-conference schedule, the Whitworth women's soccer team now stands alone in first place in the Northwest Conference with nine points (3-0) after sweeping all three NWC contests last week.
Whitworth will get its first conference road test this week when the Pirates play at George Fox on Saturday and then at Pacific (Ore.) on Sunday.
Watch the Whitworth Women's Soccer schedule for links to live coverage of the games.
The Pirates: Whitworth earned its first win of the season with a tough 1-0 victory at Whitman last Wednesday. After surviving a first half in which they were outshot 11-1, the Pirates took control in the second half and won it on Amy Sterk's header in the 86th minute. Andrea Stump made seven saves to earn her first career shutout.
Whitworth used a pair of first half goals to post a shutout of visiting Lewis & Clark on Saturday. It was Sterk again who got the Pirates on the board first, heading in Carly Schilperoort's corner kick in the 12th minute. In the 39th minute Sterk led a counter attack behind the Pioneers' defense and fed Tiara Pajimola for the team's second goal. Stump posted seven saves for the second straight match to earn her second shutout of the week.
Whitworth closed the weekend with a 2-0 win over Willamette on Sunday, scoring both goals in the second half of this match. Sterk did it again, heading in another corner kick by Schilperoort in the 64th minute for what turned out to be her third game-winning goal of the week. Pajimola also scored again for the Pirates, an unassisted effort in the 67th minute. The Whitworth defense was very strong, limiting the Bearcats to only three shots on goal and Stump easily stopped all three.
Stump Honored by NWC: For her efforts in last week's matches, Andrea Stump was selected as the NWC Women's Soccer Defensive Player of the Week. She made 17 saves over the course of three matches to put up three straight shutouts for the Pirates.
Sterk's Big Week: Amy Sterk had a great season in one week of action for the Pirates. She totaled three goals and one assist in Whitworth's three matches. Perhaps most impressive, all three of her goals went as match-winners for the Pirates, including the header with less than five minutes left at Whitman. She finished second to Linfield's Emily Fellows, who had four goals last week, for NWC Offensive Player of the Week honors.
The Bug Bites: The injury bug has hit Whitworth hard once again in 2012. Within a span of six minutes, both Jill Pecka and Molly Smith were lost to season-ending knee injuries in the September 8th match against Augustana. Pecka is lost for the season for the third year in a row.
Several other Pirates suffered injuries over the first two weeks that will keep them out of at least part of this week's action. Rachel Jones suffered a hip injury in the September 7th match with Wheaton, while Mackenzie Grow strained a hamstring. Two other injuries from the weekend of September 7th and 8th impacted the Pirates' lineup last week – Lacee Scott (quad) and Abbie Moseley (concussion). Courtney Larson suffered a hamstring injury the previous weekend and is considered week to week.
Re·sil·ient: Merriam-Webster defines the word resilient as "capable of withstanding shock without permanent damage." Nothing better describes the Pirates in the early going of 2012. Whitworth opened 0-4 against a brutal non-conference schedule that includes four schools that currently have a combined record of 21-2. On top of that, the team suffered serious injuries to several key players that forced head coach Jael Hagerott to juggle her line up last week. But the Pirates responded with three straight wins to take the early lead in the Northwest Conference standings.
Frosh Spark: Tiara Pajimola has made herself an offensive spark plug in her first season with the Pirates. She has scored four of Whitworth's goals this fall, leading the team in total goals and total points.
The Opponents: George Fox comes into the week 1-4-2 overall and 0-3 in the NWC. But the Bruins had to open last week with three tough road matches, including a pair against NWC favorites Puget Sound and Linfield. GFU fell first 3-1 at Pacific on Wednesday night, then lost a close 1-0 game at UPS on Saturday before falling 2-0 at Linfield on Sunday. Jordyn Brenneman leads the team with three goals this season. Last year Whitworth swept the Bruins, winning 1-0 in Newberg, Oregon and 2-1 at home in Spokane.
Pacific University, one of the dark horse picks for the NWC chase entering the season, comes into the weekend with a record of 3-1-3 overall and 1-1-1 in the conference. After opening with a win over George Fox, the Boxers lost 2-0 at nationally-ranked Linfield on Saturday and then tied 1-1 at Pacific Lutheran on Sunday. Kaitlyn Harper and Kamryn Plechot have each totaled two goals and two assists in 2012. Last fall the Boxers and Pirates played to a pair of draws – 1-1 in Forest Grove, Oregon and 0-0 in Spokane.
The Coach: Jael Hagerott, one of the greatest players in Whitworth history, was promoted to head coach in 2011 and posted an 8-6-4 record in her first season leading the Pirates. She is Whitworth's all-time leader in career assists. She was the NWC Offensive Player of the Year in 2004 and an NSCAA Third Team All-American in 2007.
Coming up: Whitworth will be back at home the following week to host Pacific Lutheran (Sept. 29) and Puget Sound (Sept. 30).