Bearcats Win NWC Co-Championship and NCAA Berth with 2-1 Win over Linfield

Max Berner-Hays (Fr., D, Seattle, WA/Ballard HS)
Max Berner-Hays (Fr., D, Seattle, WA/Ballard HS)

By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications

McMINNVILLE, Ore. -- Goals by Mack van der Velde (Fr., M, Voorhut, Neth./Summit HS, Bend, OR) and Max Berner-Hays (Fr., D, Seattle, WA/Ballard HS) gave Willamette University a 2-0 lead on its way to a 2-1 win over archrival Linfield College on Saturday, Nov. 4. The goals also helped the Bearcats earn an NWC co-championship, while securing the NWC's automatic bid to the 2017 NCAA Division III Men's Soccer Tournament.

Willamette improved to 10-6-2 on the season, 9-3-2 (29 points) in the Northwest Conference. The Bearcats and Pacific Lutheran University, also 9-3-2 (29 points), tied for the NWC Championship. It is Willamette's first NWC title in men's soccer.

A trio of results went Willamette's way to allow the Bearcats to clinch the NWC's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Willamette and PLU were tied on the first two tie-breakers (head-to-head results at 1-1, and head-to-head scoring with each team winning 2-1 at home). The third tie-breaker was points earned against the third place team.

On Saturday, Willamette won 2-1 over Linfield, Puget Sound defeated Pacific Lutheran, 1-0, and Whitman College edged Whitworth University, 2-1, in two overtimes. The results put the Bearcats and PLU into a tie for first, with Whitman moving in front of Whitworth for third. Willamette tied Whitman twice and PLU had a loss and a tie against the Blues.

"We have believed in each other all season, fought together, cried together, and always played together," Willamette Head Coach Lloyd Fobi said. "I am proud of these young men for representing Willamette in an exemplary fashion. We made school history today. Thank you to all of our alumni, as well as supporters and backers from Willamette's campus and Athletics Department."

Against Linfield, Willamettte's goals were by van der Velde at 14:13 and Berner-Hays at 55:47. Linfield's goal was scored by Luke Marks at 70:04.

WU controlled most the action early in the game. After Ryan Kister missed high for Linfield on the game's first shot, the Bearcats countered with the next five shots. Four of the attempts forced saves by Linfield goalkeeper Eli Peckham. Alan Hernandez (Sr., F, Tigard, OR/Tigard HS) earned two shots on goal in the first five minutes, and Liam Main (Sr., F, San Francisco, CA/Marin Academy) followed with a shot on target at 6:08.

Nicholas Ballenger (So., F, Salem, OR/West Salem HS) of Willamett was high with a shot at 6:58. Joe Plaster (Jr., D, San Diego, CA/University City HS) took a shot that was saved at 13:45. A corner kick followed just 28 seconds later. Hernandez put the corner kick into play and van der Velde headed the ball past Peckham to give the Bearcats a 1-0 led.

The strong play by WU continued throughout the half, but didn't lead to a second goal. Carter McCleary (Fr., M, Port Hadlock, WA/Chimacum HS) was close at 34:58, when his shot hit the crossbar. Quinn Nottage (Sr., GK, Portland, OR/Franklin HS) registered three saves in goal for Willamette during the half, including a stop at 41:55 on a shot by Chris Palmer. The Bearcats held a 10-4 lead in shots after 45 minutes, including a 6-3 edge in shots on goal.

It was shortly after a corner kick that the Bearcats added their second goal. Hernandez took the kick at 55:34. Just 13 seconds later, Berner-Hays headed the ball to score his sixth goal of the season on an assist from Ballenger.

Linfield reduced the lead to 2-1 when Luke Marks scored his first goal of the season just over 70 minutes into the game. The play began with a free kick into the six-yard box by Palmer. Marks scored with his left foot.

The Bearcats earned a 15-6 advantage in total shots during the game and owned a 10-4 margin in shots on target. Peckham registered eight saves for Linfield, while Nottage made three saves for Willamette. Each team finished with five corner kicks. The rivalry game included 35 fouls, with 20 on Willamette and 15 against the Wildcats. Dylan Shephard of Linfield received a yellow card and a red card at 85:52, leaving the Wildcats short-handed for the final 4:08.

Willamette's first round opponent in the NCAA Tournamnent as well as the site of the first round game will be released with other NCAA pairings on Monday, Nov. 6 on the NCAA's website. First and second round games are likely to be played at one site involving four teams.

Update on Monday, Nov. 6:

The Bearcats will take on the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor (Texas) in the first round of the 2017 NCAA Division III Men's Soccer Tournament. The Bearcats will play UMHB on Saturday, Nov. 11 at 7:30 p.m. (PST) on the campus of Trinity University (Texas) in San Antonio.

Trinity will take on the University of Texas-Tyler in the other first round game in San Antonio on Saturday at 5 p.m. The two first round winners will meet in the second round on Sunday, Nov. 12 at 7 p.m.