Review staff writer
The men’s soccer team fell short in its opening conference games, losing 1-0 to Whitworth University and 2-1 to Whitman College in
“We need to stay positive,” junior goalkeeper Joe Locascio said. “It’s a team effort.”
On Sept. 20, the team played well until Whitworth senior midfielder Caleb Barnhill scored a goal with just six minutes remaining in regulation. Although Whitworth out-shot Linfield 13-10, the Cats’ defense denied multiple scoring chances throughout the game.
“Our defense is playing exceptionally well,” Locascio, who anchored the defense early in the season, said.
The team has had six of its games decided by one goal in the first eight matches of the season. The Wildcats entered conference play last weekend with an overall record of 4-1 and were expected to win both games.
“I thought we should have come out of there with a win,” coach Ian Lefebvre said after Sunday’s loss to Whitman.
Whitman controlled the first half of the game, keeping possession in Linfield territory the majority of the game.
However, Linfield had a multitude of scoring chances late in the first half, with a header and a shot from outside the box that just missed hitting the crossbar.
With fewer than seven minutes remaining in the first half, Linfield scored first when junior Kurtis Wong split two Whitman defenders and snuck the ball past senior Whitman goalkeeper Brett Axelrod.
Wong had an open shot to the net after Axelrod came out of the net to challenge Wong, only to slip and have his feet come out from underneath him.
With just a few to go before halftime, Whitman had an opportunity to score but Locascio stopped the Whitman shot, keeping a one-goal lead going into the second half.
The team fell short in both games as the clock wound down and fatique became a factor, Lefebvre said.
He praised the team for attacking Whitman toward the end of the first half, leading to multiple shots just wide of the net. Linfield had possession deep in Whitman territory but could not convert on most scoring
The second half started with Whitman as the aggressor, scoring just two minutes into the half with a goal from sophomore midfielder
On the defensive end, Linfield played with that consistency, allowing Whitman few shots on goal. The Wildcats had a couple of late-game scoring chances in the second half, only to be denied by Whitman. Axelrod, who came up with a save off a Linfield header with only five seconds left.
“We need to collect on passes,” Lefebvre told the team before the start of the overtime session.
Whitman controlled possession early in overtime, but Linfield managed to put pressure on Whitman. Linfield had a scoring opportunity off a corner kick with fewer than two minutes remaining, but the Whitman defense held. Whitman worked down the field to get a shot, but Locascio made a tremendous save, fully extending to his right to keep the game tied.
Whitman got the ball back, and forward Stephen Phillips dribbled between two Linfield defenders, scoring the winning goal with three seconds remaining.
“It was a good learning experience for us,” Lefebvre said. “We are a young group.”
The team continues to look for its first conference win of the season, traveling to Pacific University, University of Puget Sound and George Fox University for its next three games.
Linfield’s only game this weekend is Sept. 27 against Pacific. The game, at Forest Grove, starts at 7 p.m.