First-place Pirates Headed to Linfield

SPOKANE, Wash. – Whitworth will conclude the first half of the Northwest Conference women's soccer schedule with a single match at Linfield College on Saturday.  The first-place Pirates will take a 6-0-1 NWC record into the contest against the Wildcats.

Whitworth held on to first place in the conference standings last weekend with a 2-2 home tie against Pacific Lutheran and an important 1-0 win over 10-time defending conference champion Puget Sound.

There are no live links available for the match on Saturday at Linfield.

The Pirates: Whitworth appeared to have won its match with Pacific Lutheran on two occasions last Saturday.  Tiara Pajimola scored late in the first half to give Whitworth a 1-0 lead.  And with the Pirate defense posting five straight shutouts coming into the match, that appeared to be enough.  But Samantha Brenner ended the Whitworth shutout streak and tied the match with just over 11 minutes to play.  Katrin Grant's first goal of the year gave the Bucs the lead back in the 82nd minute, but PLU tied it again with under two minutes to play in regulation.  Neither team scored in overtime and they settled for the 2-2 draw.

Whitworth got its win over Puget Sound when Tiara Pajimola took a great pass from Katrin Grant and scored in the 56th minute.  The win was the Pirates' first over UPS since Sept. 25, 2010.  Andrea Stump made five saves in goal for Whitworth to post her fifth shutout of the season.

Pajimola Honored by NWC:  For her efforts in last week's matches, Tiara Pajimola was selected as the NWC Women's Soccer Offensive Player of the Week.  She scored the first goal against PLU, then scored the match-winner against Puget Sound.

It's a Record: Whitworth went 528:42 without allowing a goal from the end of the match against Augustana until the 79th minute against Pacific Lutheran.  That set a new scoreless streak record for the team.  The previous record was 422:22 during the end of the 2008 season.

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 continue to keep them out this week, including Rachel Jones' hip injury suffered in the September 7th match with Wheaton.  Two other injuries from the weekend of September 7th and 8th have impacted the Pirates' lineup – Lacee Scott (quad) and Courtney Larson ( hamstring) are both considered week to week.

Re·sil·ient: Merriam-Webster defines the work 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 comprised four schools that currently have a combined record of 35-10.  On top of that, the team suffered serious injuries to several key players that forced head coach Jael Hagerott to juggle her line all season.  But the Pirates have responded with six wins and a tie in seven matches to take the lead in the Northwest Conference standings.

NWC Standings: The conference standings are based on a point system in which three points are awarded for a win and one point for a tie.  No points are gained in a loss.  So far at 6-0-1 the Pirates have 19 points in the standings.  Second-place Puget Sound (4-1-1) has 13 points, while Linfield (3-1-2) has 11 points.  But the Loggers and Wildcats have played one fewer NWC match than the Pirates and both will catch up this weekend.

Frosh Spark: Tiara Pajimola has made herself an offensive spark plug in her first season with the Pirates.  She has scored six of Whitworth's goals this fall, leading the team in total goals (6) and total points (14).  She also ranks second in the NWC in both categories.

The Opponents: With several key players back from a team that finished a close second to Puget Sound last season, Linfield is considered by many to by the primary challenger to the Loggers' championship streak in NWC women's soccer.  The Wildcats lead the conference in both offense (2.2 goals per game) and defense (0.28 goals allowed per game).  Emily Fellows is the NWC leader in goals scored (10) and total points (22) this season.  Linfield finished with a pair of road ties last weekend – 0-0 at Willamette on Saturday and 1-1 at Lewis & Clark on Sunday.  Last year Whitworth and Linfield tied 0-0 in McMinnville before the Wildcats pulled out a 1-0 victory over the Pirates 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 open the second half of its NWC schedule by hosting Whitman on Wednesday, October 10th at 1:30 pm.