Kurtis WIlliams – For the Review. Two second-half goals by juniors McKensie Booth and Brittany Willis lifted the women’s soccer team over Pacific Lutheran University on Sept. 20.
The victory improved the Wildcats’ record to 1-1 in Northwest Conference play and 4-2 overall. PLU, however, fell to 0-2 in the NWC and 1-5 overall.
After a scoreless first half, the Lutes struck early in the second, cashing in on a penalty kick by sophomore Olivia Lee to take a 1-0 lead.
Linfield responded in the 59th minute with a corner kick. Junior Sara Blake served up a beautiful ball into the box where Booth was ready to knock in the equalizer.
A little more than a minute later, Willis scored from point-blank range, giving Linfield the outright lead and, eventually, the win.
The ’Cats’ win, however, represents a larger victory for the program.
Last year, amid coaching changes and general frustration, the team struggled toward an overall record of 6-14, one that the Wildcats are on pace to surpass this season. With 16 goals so far, the team is likely to best its 21 goals in 20 games from last year.
The team was 2-8 away from McMinnville last season and scored a mere nine goals. After four road games this year, the team holds a record of 2-2 with 11 goals scored.
As first-year Linfield players, Booth and Willis represent a part of the 27-member team. The squad comprises six freshmen, four transfers and three first-year players.
“When [returning players] talk about [last year’s team], they talk about it as a learning experience,” Booth said. “They want to move past it to create a better outlook as far as Linfield soccer goes.”
Junior forward MacKenzie Doty, a University of Oregon transfer, has led the ’Cats’ offense with six goals in as many games.
Willis joins the team following a two-year stint at Shoreline Community College, where she was named regional player of the year.
“I came from a winning team,” Willis said. “The attitudes of the girls on the [Linfield] team, you never would have known they were coming from a losing season.”
Many of these positive attitudes stem from first-year head coach Dominic Doty, brother of twins MacKenzie and Rennika.
“Our new coaches, Dominic, Derek [Ponce] and Spencer [Winter], they’re all younger guys so they know what it’s like to be on a team,” Willis said. “Also, the older girls are really trying to get people to do stuff together.”
Booth is quick to give credit to the coaches for bringing the team up from its meager results last year.
“We have all new coaches who have worked really hard to get to know us as players and individuals,” she said. “That’s helped our team mesh well together.”
Willis gives praise to coach Doty with team cohesion on and off the field, as he has provided opportunities away from the field for team bonding.
“I think [Dominic]’s done a good job trying to make sure everyone’s getting along,” she said. “We’ve done a lot of stuff outside of soccer.”
Linfield hosts Pacific University at noon Sept. 26. The Wildcats will then travel to Portland for a noon game against Lewis & Clark College on Sept. 27.