By Jake Bilyeu, PLU Sports Information Student Writer
PHOTO: Eddie Na celebrates after scoring what proved to be the game-winning goal against fourth-ranked Whitworth Saturday afternoon (Bailey Plumb)
PARKLAND, WA – The Pacific Lutheran men’s soccer team made program history and took a huge step towards a potential postseason berth Saturday afternoon, as the Lutes handed fourth-ranked Whitworth its first defeat of the 2015 season with a 2-0 win over the Pirates.
Pacific Lutheran’s first win over Whitworth since 2011 improved the Lutes’ record to 8-2 in Northwest Conference play and 12-4 overall, moving the Lutes into sole possession of second place in the NWC standings only one point behind the conference-leading Pirates. It also marked the first time under head coach John Yorke that the Lutes have defeated a team ranked in the NCAA Div. III top five.
“It was our best game all season,” Yorke said. “The team had a complete performance, both offensively and defensively.”
An early goal in the teams’ last meeting gave Whitworth the 1-0 win in Spokane, and the Pirates came into Saturday’s match having allowed only one goal during the conference season and only three goals overall. Eddie Na took care of that, scoring twice for the Lutes on Saturday.
The Lutes looked poised to take control early when a shot by Na, who missed the team’s first match with Whitworth due to injury, nearly found the back of the net in the sixth minute, only to be saved by Whitworth goalkeeper Timmy Costa.
Na didn’t have to wait long for another chance to strike, as he found an opening off of a pass from Diego Aceves in the 22nd minute and fired a shot that soared past Costa to put the Lutes up 1-0.
The score energized both the team and the PLU home crowd, as PLU was playing its first home contest in three weeks.
“The crowd created a really fun atmosphere, and it was good to have them as always,” Yorke said.
The Lutes knew that the game was still far from over, but Na provided what looked to be the clinching goal in the 59th minute off an assist from KC Phillips to put the team up 2-0.
While the Whitworth defense constricted the PLU offense at times, the Lutes kept Whitworth in control for the full 90 minutes, as they outshot the Pirates 12-7.
The team talked prior to the game about how they couldn’t wait to show the fans how they’d improved, and they made that statement with the historic win. But Yorke believes there were others at the game who benefited from seeing the win even more.
“It was more important for us to show each other that we could pull off this win,” Yorke said.
Mike Arguello finished the day with four saves to earn the shutout, while Costa saved six shot attempts for the Pirates in a match that tripled his conference goals-allowed total.
The Lutes don’t get to dwell on Saturday’s win for very long, however, as the team gets right back on the field against Whitman at 2:30 p.m. Sunday afternoon.
“We’ve got a whole new challenge ahead of us tomorrow,” Yorke said. “But we’ll stick to our routine and get things done.”