Sparks Scores for Willamette, as Bearcats and Lutes Tie 1-1 in 2 OT

Adhre Sparks (So., D, Lakewood, CA/Los Alamitos HS)
Adhre Sparks (So., D, Lakewood, CA/Los Alamitos HS)

By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications

SALEM, Ore. -- Adhre Sparks (So., D, Lakewood, CA/Los Alamitos HS) of Willamette University scored with his knee at 69:17 and Joe Sammartino from Pacific Lutheran University scored on a penalty kick at 80:56, as the Bearcats and the Lutes battled to a 1-1 tie in two overtimes on Sunday, Oct. 28. The game, played at Sparks Field on the Willamette campus, pitted last year's Northwest Conference co-champions in a head-to-head match-up.

Pacific Lutheran moved to 13-4-2 overall, 9-2-2 (29 points) in the Northwest Conference. Willamette ended the day at 11-3-4 on the season, 8-2-3 (27 points) in the NWC.

If the Lutes defeat University of Puget Sound on Saturday, Nov. 3 starting at 12 p.m. (PDT), PLU will win the NWC title outright. If the Lutes lose, Willamette can win the title outright with a victory over Linfield College on Nov. 3 in Salem, with kickoff at 1:30 p.m.

In the event PLU ties Puget Sound and Willamette defeats Linfield, the Bearcats and the Lutes will tie for the NWC title for the second year in a row. Willamette, which won the tie-breaker for the NWC's automatic bid into the NCAA Division III National Tournament last year, would also hold the tie-breaker this season if both teams finish with 30 points in the standings. The Bearcats won 3-1 at Pacific Lutheran on Sept. 15 and have a 1-0-1 record against the Lutes.

"I'm very proud of this group today," Willamette Head Coach Lloyd Fobi said about his team. "One of our cornerstones is 'the being of team', and tough times test your foundation. We have not broken our commitment ... we believe."

The game was an entertaining nail-biter throughout, as both teams went for the win from the opening kick. Even the final stats suggest a hard-fought, close game. Pacific Lutheran gained a 20-19 edge in total shots, with each team placing seven shots on target. The Lutes also held a slim 3-2 edge in corner kicks. Willamette goalkeeper Mason Kelliher (Jr., GK, Wellington, N.Z./Wellington College) made six saves for the Bearcats, while PLU goalie RJ Noll earned five saves for the Lutes.

A total of 49 fouls were called, including 30 on the Bearcats and 19 on Pacific Lutheran. There were eight yellow cards issued, with six on Willamette and two against the Lutes.

Neither team scored in the first half, although the Bearcats finished the 45-minute session with an 8-6 lead in total shots and a 3-2 margin in shots on goal.

Willamette had two of the three best chances of the half. Just 9:19 into the game, Max Berner-Hays (So., D, Seattle, WA/Ballard HS) sent the ball toward the net on a header, but the ball hit the post and went out of play. A bit more than a minute later, Noll was out of goal when the ball popped out to Hikaru Ichigi (Jr., M, Kobe, Japan/Fujiigakuen Sangawa) of Willamette. Ichigi blasted a powerful shot at the middle of the net, but Sam Ebner earned a team save by blocking the shot.

The Lutes also had one solid chance to score before hafltime. Sammartino provided the opportunity at 32:54 with a well-struck, low shot from the right side that Kelliher deflected with his right hand and the Bearcats cleared the ball.

Yuta Suga (So., M, Urawa, Japan/RKU) began Willamette's goal-scoring play with a throw-in from the left side of the field. The ball went into the center of the penalty area, but was sent out of the box by the Lutes.

Suga regathered the ball several yards from the sideline, and kicked it back into the box. The ball was headed by a PLU player and then kicked by another Lute. It went toward Sparks, who kicked it with his knee from seven yards out into the right side of the net at 69:17.

The Bearcats almost took a 2-0 lead at 76:57 when a free kick by Suga hit the crossbar. Berner-Hays followed up with a header that went wide right.

A foul in the Willamette penalty area at 80:56 led to the penalty kick by Samartino of PLU. He scored his eighth goal of the year by sending the ball past Kelliher to tie the game.

Kelliher registered two solid saves on shots late in the first overtime. He pushed aside a straight-on shot by Jackson Moore at 98:26 and then stopped Sammartino on a shot from the right side at 98:58. Sammartino tried to chip past Kelliher in the final second, but time expired while the ball was in the air. Kelliher deflected the attempt.

Willamettte outshot PLU 5-0 in the second overtime. Noll was forced to make two saves during the period. He kept out a shot by Berner-Hays at 101:04. He grabbed a curving shot by Nicholas Ballenger (Jr., F, Salem, OR/West Salem HS) from the left side with one second left.

Adhre Sparks (So., D, Lakewood, CA/Los Alamitos HS)

Big Moment of the Game for Willamette

When the ball fell to Adhre Sparks about seven yards from
goal and just over 20 minutes remaining in regulation, he
was ready to put the Bearcats in front of the Lutes somehow.
Sparks judged the flight of the ball off a PLU defender before
raising his leg and using his knee to send the ball into the
right corner of the net, easily avoiding PLU goalie RJ Noll.
It was Sparks' second goal of the season.