Goal by Ballenger with 1:44 left Sends Bearcats Past Banana Slugs, 1-0

Nicholas Ballenger (So., F, Salem, OR/West Salem  HS)
Nicholas Ballenger (So., F, Salem, OR/West Salem HS)

By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications

SALEM, Ore. -- Nicholas Ballenger (So., F, Salem, OR/West Salem HS) scored from 12 yards out following a lengthy through pass from Max Berner-Hays (Fr., D, Seattle, WA/Ballard HS), as Willamette University slipped past the Banana Slugs from the University of California, Santa Cruz, 1-0, in a men's soccer game at Sparks Field on Sunday, Sept. 10.

Berner-Hays began the play when he made a full-field pass starting 28 yards out from Willamette's goal. Ballenger gathered in the ball a few yards outside the UC Santa Cruz penalty area. With a defender to his right and UCSC goalkeeper Andrew Pimentel charging out, Ballenger used the outside of his right foot to send his shot into the lower right corner of the goal.

Willamette was outshot 10-3 in the first half, but the Bearcats outshot the Banana Slugs 8-5 in the second half. UCSC earned five corner kicks in the first half, with four corners leading to shots that went high or wide. Nierther team received a corner kick in the second half.

Both teams spent much of the game trying to work through the defensive line or complete a through pass to achieve a quality shot on goal. For the most part, the back lines of both teams held up to the pressure. It took the lengthy pass from Berner-Hays and Ballenger's footwork to create the game's only goal.

"It was a full team effort," Willamette Head Coach Lloyd Fobi said. "When your guys off the bench can give you that kind of effort and intensity, things will go your way."

Ballenger played 64 minutes off the bench, and four other Bearcats entered for at least nine minutes.

"I thought Santa Cruz was at their best tonight compared to their last two games, and they really gave us a tough time in the first half," Fobi noted. "But our guys are warriors at heart. The previous three games we were battle tested in California, and when things did not go our way down there, we remained true to our commitment to one another. So it was nice to see that pay off impressively tonight."

Mack van der Velde (Fr., M, Voorhut, Neth./Summit HS, Bend, OR) of Willamette had perhaps the best shot prior to the game-winning goal. His powerful shot from 30 yards hit the crossbar at 66:31. Shortly before the shot by van der Velde, and again soon afterward, WU's Alan Hernandez (Sr., F, Tigard, OR/Tigard HS) recorded quality shots that were saved by Pimentel.

Marco Gonzalez-Yanez (Jr., GK, Portland, OR/Central Catholic HS/U. of Portland) of Willamette also made two saves in the second half. He stopped a shot by Amr Makhamreh at 51:18 and also rejected a shot by Cole Fox at 65:01. Gonzalez-Yanex finished with four saves, while Pimentel totaled three saves for UC Santa Cruz. Two Willamette players earned team saves for the Bearcats in the first half by blocking shots that would have gone into the net.

Willamette will open Northwest Conference play next weekend, when the Bearcats host University of Puget Sound on Saturday, Sept. 16 and take on Pacific Lutheran University on Sunday, Sept. 17. Both games will begin at 12 p.m. (PDT).

"I am excited to find another hard test in Puget Sound and Pacific Lutheran next week ... another chance for us to improve and better our commitment to one another," Fobi said.