SPOKANE, Wash. – The Whitworth Pirates' chase for the 2012 Northwest Conference women's soccer championship will come down to four matches over nine days. That stretch begins this coming weekend with matches at Willamette and Lewis & Clark on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Whitworth goes into the weekend tied for first place in the NWC standings with Linfield, while defending champion Puget Sound lurks a few points behind.
The Pirates earned a pair of one-goal victories at home last weekend over Pacific (Ore.) and George Fox to remain tied for the conference lead.
Check the Whitworth women's soccer schedule for live links to this weekend's matches.
The Pirates: Despite controlling much of the action and possession throughout the match, Whitworth had to go overtime for a 1-0 win over visiting Pacific on October 20th. Hannah Bokma headed in the winning goal off of a corner kick by Carly Schilperoort in the 98th minute to give the Pirates the win. Andrea Stump made two saves to pick up her seventh shutout of the season. Whitworth ended up sweeping the Boxers in both season match-ups without allowing a goal.
Whitworth took a 1-0 lead into the final 15 minutes of the match on Sunday against George Fox, but the Bruins stunned the Pirates with a late tying goal. Tiara Pajimola scored the Pirates' first goal of the game in the 24th minute from an assist by Mackenzie Grow. After GFU tied the match, Pajimola set up Hannah Bokma for the winning goal with a sharp crossing pass that Bokma finished in the 82nd minute. Whitworth swept the Bruins in 2012 with a pair of one-goal victories.
Bokma Honored by the NWC: Hannah Bokma was selected as the NWC Offensive Student-Athlete of the Week in women's soccer this week. Both of her goals were match winners.
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 on September 29, a span of six games. That set a new defensive 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 of the lineup, 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 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 against four schools that currently have a combined record of 56-12-2. On top of that, the team suffered serious injuries to several key players that have forced head coach Jael Hagerott to juggle her line-up all season. But the Pirates have responded to share 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 9-1-2 the Pirates have 29 points in the standings, tied with Linfield (9-1-2, 29 points). Puget Sound (8-2-1) has 25 points and is close behind in third place.
Frosh Spark: Tiara Pajimola has made herself an offensive spark plug in her first season with the Pirates. She leads the team in total goals (8) and total points (19) and ranks second in the NWC in both categories.
The Opponents: Willamette comes into the weekend with an overall record of 5-10-1 and a Northwest Conference mark of 3-8-1 (10 points). The Bearcats played only one match last week, falling 1-0 at Puget Sound in a hard-fought contest. Willamette is averaging 1.1 goals per game and is allowing 1.75 per contest. Ashland Bernard leads her squad with five goals and two assists, while Sarah Desautels has added three goals. Whitworth defeated the Bearcats 2-0 in Spokane on September 16th on goals by Amy Sterk and Tiara Pajimola.
Lewis & Clark is one of the most improved teams in the NWC this season. The Pioneers head into Saturday's match with Whitman 5-7-3 overall and 5-4-3 (18 points) in the NWC (4th place in the standings). L&C played to a 0-0 tie at home with PLU last Sunday in its only match of the weekend. The Pioneers average 1.3 goals per game and have a goals-against average of 1.20. Emily Thompson leads her team with five goals and two assists this year, while Anna Thorndike has added four goals and two assists. The Pirates defeated the Pioneers 2-0 at home on September 15th behind goals by Tiara Pajimola and Amy Sterk.
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 make up its lost game at Puget Sound from October 13th with a game on October 31 at Central Washington University in Ellensburg (2:00 pm). Then Whitworth will host Linfield on November 3rd in what could end up a winner-take-all game for the NWC championship.