By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications, (503) 370-6110
SALEM, Ore. -- Willamette University men's soccer players Max Berner-Hays (Fr., D, Seattle, WA/Ballard HS) and Nicholas Ballenger (So., F, Salem, OR/West Salem HS) scored goals at 62:25 and 66:40, respectively, and the Bearcats went on to defeat Whitman College, 2-1 in Northwest Conference action at Sparks Field on Sunday, Sept. 17. A bit earlier in the game, WU goalkeeper Marco Gonzalez-Yanez (Jr., GK, Portland, OR/Central Catholic HS/U. of Portland) saved a penalty kick taken by Pacific Lutheran's Eddie Na at 57:23.
With the win, the Bearcats improved to 2-0 in the NWC and to 3-3 on the season. PLU dropped to 1-1 in the NWC and to 3-3-1 overall.
"This was a great weekend for us (two wins in two days)," Willamette Head Coach Lloyd Fobi said. "We just remained true to our beliefs of commitment to one another. Today, we stuck together when things did not go our way with a penalty kick call, and then rallied behind a great save by our 'keeper. Then our attack really got going. I'm just so proud of these young men."
The Lutes outshot Willamette 10-0 in the first half, but WU gained an 8-5 edge in shots over the final 45 minutes. Even so, the best chance of the first half went to Willamette on a counter-attack less than two minutes into the game. Alan Hernandez (Sr., F, Tigard, OR/Tigard HS) took the ball into the PLU penalty area. Rather than shoot from a tight angle, he crossed the ball to Liam Main (Sr., F, San Francisco, CA/Marin Academy), who shot the ball into the net. Main was ruled offside and the goal did not count.
Gonzalez-Yanez made six saves for Willamette in the first half, but only a couple of Pacific Lutheran's shots were challenging. In addition, a Willamette defender cleared one shot when it was only several yards from the goal line.
A foul in the Willamette box led to the penalty kick by Na just over 12 minutes into the second half with the teams still tied at 0-0. Na shot low toward the left post, but Gonzalez-Yanez snagged the ball.
The penalty save by Gonzalez-Yanez, plus Willamette's edge in shots during the second half, provided momentum leading to the Bearcats' two goals. Berner-Hays opened the scoring when he beat PLU goalkeepr RJ Noll in the air about six yards from the goal and headed the ball into the net . Joe Plaster (Jr., D, San Diego, CA/University City HS) set up the goal with a pass from the midfield stripe on a free kick.
Ballenger doubled the lead just over four minutes later on a 7-yard header following a cross from the left side by Hernandez. Ballenger was about even with the left post when he sent the ball into the upper left corner of the goal.
PLU reduced the lead to 2-1 on an own goal when a deflected ball bounced off a second Willamette defender and into the net at 77:24. Pacific Lutheran had a chance to tie the game on a small-angle shot by Na with six seconds left in the game, but Gonzalez-Yanez stopped the shot at the near post and deflected it over the end line. The Lutes did not have time to take the corner kick.
Gonzalez-Yanez registered three saves in the second half and nine saves during the game. The Lutes finished with a 15-8 margin in total shots and an 11-3 edge in shots on goal. Noll recorded two saves for PLU in the first 72:29. Tyler Ohata played in goal for the Lutes over the final 17:31, but did not make a save.
Up next for the Bearcats is a game at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon, on Friday, Sept. 22. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. (PDT).