California tour builds team, record

Kurtis Williams

For the Review

For the first time this year, the Linfield men’s soccer team went on the road for a physically demanding three-match tour of Southern California.

In game one, the Wildcats remained undefeated, 3-0, in non-conference play with goals from sophomore  midfielder Carter Elhabbassi and freshman midfielder Kyle Wallace that held off Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, 2-1, on Sept. 12.

Elhabbassi opened up the scoring 21 minutes into the game with his first goal of the campaign on an assist from junior Kurtis Wong.

Wong has three assists and three goals this year, leading the team in points.

Wallace scored his team-leading fourth goal of the season in the second half.

Despite a last-minute goal from Claremont’s senior forward Kevin Festini, the win was a positive result for
the team.

The second leg of the journey proved less successful for the ’Cats as they fell 1-0 to Pomona-Pitzer College, who pushed their undefeated record to 3-0.

Although Linfield had more offensive presence and eight more corner kicks than Pomona, a third-minute goal by junior Wynn Sullivan beat the ’Cats’ senior goalkeeper Mike Belzberg.

Looking to finish their California tour on a positive note, the ’Cats faced Whittier College in the final game of the trip. It took 85 of the 90 minutes for the Wildcats to break through the stalemate with a goal by junior captain Travis Isaacs, winning 1-0 and pushing their record to 4-1.

Sophomore goalkeeper Jon Thompson recorded the team’s third  shutout of the season. Linfield’s defense stood strong this year, and has only allowed two goals in five games while alternating between its three goalkeepers.

Although the rotation of goalkeepers may seem like a preseason gimmick, it is not just an attempt by head coach Ian Lefebvre to give each player experience in different situations.

“I feel pretty confident with whoever is in there,” he said.

Lefebvre said he had mixed feelings about the California tour but was pleased with the results.

“The trip was a good team builder,” he said. “We had to battle through three games, but we should have won all three. We let in an early goal against Pomona.”

The team will need to be stingy Sept. 20 when Linfield starts conference play at home against Whitworth University, the defending NWC champions, at 2:30 p.m. The Pirates will enter the game with a comparable record of 4-0-1.

Whitworth was ranked first by coaches in the NWC preseason poll and
sits at ninth place in the national ranking.

Linfield was voted sixth in the former poll, but Lefebvre knows that anything can happen.

“The polls basically follow last year’s final standings, but the league should be wide open this year,” Lefebvre said. “Whitworth and Pacific will be two tough matches along with UPS and Whitman.”

The ’Cats will have an extra boost against the Pirates when sophomore midfield Michael Camacho makes his home debut after seeing his first action of the year in California.

On the road, Camacho played forward, due to solid play from Isaacs, Elhabbassi and sophomore midfield Roland Mason.

Camacho suffered a partially torn MCL and hamstring six weeks before the season started, stunting his training.

Camacho begin training with the rest of the team only a week ago. The positive impact was immediately felt.

“I think I can help out offensively and keep the team organized,” Camacho said.

Starting 14 games at center midfield last year, Camacho was an emerging part of the offensive attack and looks to get on the scoring sheet this weekend against Whitworth.

Camacho and Lefebvre give credit to Whitworth. They know the game will be tough but said they do not think anyone should count them out.

“I think they rank in the top 10 right now,” Camacho said. “We have a pretty young team, but we’re skillful and it wouldn’t be farfetched to say we could beat them.”

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