by Andrew Goodwin, Sports Infromation Assistant
SPOKANE, Wash. – Whitworth women's soccer started their conference season the right way with a 2-1 win over the Willamette Bearcats Saturday afternoon.
Kathryn Bischoff scored the match-winner for the Pirates on a 57th minute free kick, and the defense held strong to keep the lead for the final 30 minutes.
"I love our group and their determination to work hard through the full 90 minutes," head coach Bryan Olson said. "Our women are resilient and hard-working, and they showed it today."
Whitworth put that resiliency on display after giving up the first goal of the match. Yume Matsuyama fired away from 20 yards and her shot just escaped the grasp of Molly Webster. The goal was Matsuyama's first of the season and gave Willamette a 1-0 advantage in the 35th minute.
Whitworth didn't wait to equalize. After a short spell of possession, Michelle Whan found herself on the ball with plenty of space to move goalwards. The senior dribbled into the penalty box and planted a shot in the back of the net to even the score at 1-1.
The back-to-back goals were emblematic of a back-and-forth first half. Whitworth and Willamette combined for 11 shots on goal, but only the pair found the net. The teams would head into halftime with the 1-1 score.
After the halftime break, Whitworth moved back into their possession-heavy attack. Kelly Wucherer and Annie Clark maintained the ball for the Pirates in the midfield, and their possession paid dividends after Coby Yoshimura earned a foul in the 56th minute.
The foul gave Bischoff, a free-kick specialist, an opportunity to put the Pirates ahead. She took advantage, leaving the goalkeeper flat-footed as she buried the shot. The 57th minute free kick gave Whitworth a 2-1 lead they wouldn't relinquish.
"She stays after practice every day to work on that shot," Olson said. "I wasn't surprised when it went in."
Once in the lead, the Pirates' defense turned up the intensity. They didn't allow a shot on goal in the second half on the way to a scoreless half.
Whitworth finished the match with a 9-4 advantage in shots on goal and their offensive onslaught included eight corner kicks. Webster saved three shots.
The Pirates remain at home tomorrow to take on Lewis & Clark. The match begins at Noon.