The ’Cats squared off with Whitman in Walla Walla, Wash., where the Whitman Missionaries took control of the game early, scoring in the 6th minute of play.
Sophomore forward Leland Matthaeus assisted on the early goal by junior midfielder Sam Freedman to put Whitman ahead 1-0.
Missionaries senior midfielder Connor Bottomly scored in the 38th minute and again during the second period to give Whitman a commanding 3-0 lead.
Freshman midfielder Abel DeVos scored in the 88th minute for the ’Cats off of an assist from senior midfielder Kevin Donato. DeVos’ score trimmed the lead to 3-1, but the ’Cats would get no closer.
The ’Cats had a chance to bounce back against the Whitworth Pirates on Oct. 31, but lost a heartbreaker 0-1.
Pirates junior midfielder Cameron Bushey was ejected from the game in the 42nd minute after getting a red card. The loss of Bushey forced Whitworth to play shorthanded for the remainder of the game.
Both teams attempted 12 shots within the first 90 minutes of play, but none found the net.
The match was decided on a game-winning goal by Pirate senior midfielder Travis Gutierrez in the 99th minute.
The Whitworth defense held strong throughout the game, helped by solid play from junior goalkeeper Brian Sherpe, who finished the game with four saves. Despite holding a 15-14 advantage in shot attempts, the ’Cats failed to capitalize on their scoring opportunities.
Senior midfielder Carter Elhabbassi said he thought the team played well, but it also hurt to lose such a close game.
“We played with a lot of heart but just couldn’t get a goal,” he said. “It was tough, especially when we had our chances to score. Just
tough — just hard to swallow.”
Head coach Ian Lefebvre said it’s been particularly difficult to win on Whitworth’s field.
“It was tough, especially with their place. I haven’t won there in the four years I’ve been here,” he said. “But we had our opportunities to win that game, and we weren’t able to do it.”
The two losses dropped Linfield to a 7-9-1 record overall and 6-7 in the conference.
The ’Cats have tumbled down the standings during the past two weeks.
Linfield has lost four of its last five games and now sits above only Willamette and George Fox universities —
teams that have combined for a 1-22-3 record on the season.
But the ’Cats are at the heels of the University of Puget Sound, trailing by only three points in the conference standings. Five points separate the third and sixth place teams in the conference.
The ’Cats were in the middle of the pack before their skid, holding a 6-5 overall record and 5-3 conference record on Oct. 16. As of Nov. 4, the men hold a 7-9-1 overall record and a 6-7 conference record.
Despite tough late season losses, Elhabbassi said this season has turned out better than past seasons.
“I feel like this was a better season. We have a great group of guys and we were right in the mix all season,” he said. “And in the past, we didn’t really compete for the title, but this year I feel like we actually had a chance.”
Lefebvre said the team has improved since last season.
“I feel like we took a step forward from last year. I think we’re going to lose a couple of our core guys this year,” he said.“After Saturday, we have to move forward, and I like our core group that is coming back next year.”
The ’Cats match up against Willamette for their final game of the conference season on Nov. 6. Willamette has struggled this year, only managing one victory all season.
Elhabbassi said that the team will need to be focused to finish the season on a winning note.
“We just need to play our game — just play how we play,” he said. “We need to possess the ball and make the most of our opportunities. And we need to avoid costly mistakes.”
Lefebvre agreed with Elhabbassi, stressing the importance of execution.
“We’re going to have to do the things we’ve been preaching all year. We don’t go away from the game plan,” he said. “If we connect on our
passes, play simple, finish our chances and defend as a unit, then good things will come.
Matt Bayley/Staff reporter
Matt Bayley can be reached at email@example.com.