By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SALEM, Ore. -- Luke Murdock scored goals at 26:09 and 46:19 to give University of Puget Sound a 2-0 lead in their Northwest Conference men's soccer game against Willamette University on Saturday, Oct. 27 at Sparks Field. The Loggers held off the Bearcats to grab a 2-1 win. Puget Sound improved to 7-5-4 overall, 5-3-4 (19 points) in the NWC. Willamette slipped to 11-3-3 on the season, 8-2-2 (26 points) in the NWC.
Murdock has scored nine goals on the season. Max Berner-Hays (So., D, Seattle, WA/Ballard HS) of Willamette scored his ninth goal of the season at 83:30 to pull the Bearcats within 2-1. Berner-Hays and Murdock are tied for the NWC goal scoring lead.
Puget Sound outshot Willamette 11-9 for the game and 9-5 in the first half. The Loggers held a 3-1 margin in shots on goal at halftime and owned a 4-3 edge when the game ended.
Willamette defenders blocked four shots and Puget Sound defenders blocked three shots in the first 23 minutes of the game. The Loggers took a 1-0 lead on Murdock's opening goal at 26:09. It was the second of back-t0-back shots. The first attempt was by Cale Spence, but it was saved by WU goalkeeper Mason Kelliher (Jr., GK, Wellington, N.Z./Wellington College). After the save, the ball bounced off Spence and was shot by Murdock into the lower right corner of the goal.
The Loggers increased their margin to 2-0 just 1:19 into the second half, as Murdock recorded his second goal of the game. He shot toward the lower right corner after receiving a pass from Spence.
A shot by Yuta Suga (So., M, Urawa, Japan/RKU) had a chance to get Willamette on the scoreboard at 82:23, but Puget Sound goalie Wren Norwood earned a save for the Loggers. Just over a minute later, Berner-Hays shot the ball into the net to pull the Bearcats within 2-1. After receiving a cross from Hikaru Ichigi (Jr., M, Kobe, Japan/Fujiigakuen Sangawa), Nicholas Ballenger (Jr., F, Salem, OR/West Salem HS) set up the play with a pass to Berner-Hays.
Willamette achieved two corner kicks late in the game at 88:05 and at 88:50, but the Bearcats were unable to create a shot. During the game, WU compiled a 9-4 margin in corner kicks.
The Bearcats will be at home again on Sunday, Oct. 28, when they will take on Pacific Lutheran at 12 p.m. (PDT) in a battle for first place in the NWC standings. Pacific Lutheran leads the NWC with a 9-2-1 record (28 points), two points in front of the Bearcats. If Willamette defeats the Lutes, the Bearcats will receive three points and move past PLU to 29 points on the season with one game remaining. If Pacific Lutheran wins, the Lutes will clinch the title.
Last season, Willamette and Pacific Lutheran were NWC co-champions with identical 9-3-2 records (29 points). Willamette won the tie-breaker and received the NWC's automatic bid into the NCAA Division III National Tournament. The Bearcats lost to University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, 1-0, in a first round game played at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas.
Big Moment of the Game for Willamette
Max Berner-Hays might be a defender, but he's a key
offensive threat on set pieces and whenever the Bearcats
need more players on the attack. On Saturday, he scored
his ninth goal of the season on an assist from Nicholas
Ballenger at 83:30 to pull WU within one goal. Berner-Hays
is tied for the NWC scoring lead. Ballenger has scored seven
goals, making Willamette the only NWC team with two
players who have scored at least six goals this year.