McMINNVILLE, Ore. – The smallest player on the field made the biggest difference Sunday at the Linfield soccer field.
Christine Tamamoto scored unassisted in the 82nd minute, lifting the Linfield Wildcats to a 1-0 Northwest Conference victory over Pacific and extending the Wildcats’ unbeaten string to four matches.
With the match at a scoreless stalemate in the late going, the Wildcats lined up for a corner kick. Pacific defender Kaitlyn Harper tried to clear the ball away with a header but instead it found its way to Tamamoto’s feet and the diminutive 4-foot-10 midfielder fired an uncontested shot from the right side from the 15 yards out. Boxers goalkeeper Brittany Hartmann was caught flat-footed and the looping shot sailed over her outstretched arms and into the left corner of the net.
For Tamamoto, it was her second goal of the season and first match-winner.
The contest was evenly played throughout. Both teams logged six shots and three corner kicks in the first half. Linfield began to assert itself in the second period, outgunning the visitors 7-4 and taking a 3-1 advantage in corners.
Stephanie Socotch and MacKenzie Doty each registered two shots on goal for the Wildcats. Kailee Green had three shots on target for the Boxers.
Hartmann was called on to make eight saves for Pacific. Wildcats netminder Apolonia Martinez was credited with six saves while picking up her fifth shutout of the season.
Coupled with Willamette’s 3-1 loss at Whitworth, Linfield’s home field victory vaulted the Wildcats into second place in the NWC standings at the halfway point of the schedule.
Linfield moved to 8-2-2 overall and 5-1-2 in the NWC while Pacific saw its records fall to 6-5-1 overall and 3-4-1 in conference action.
No Linfield team has ever finished higher than third in the conference, though Tamamoto and the Wildcats are on a mission to change that. The Wildcats are the only NWC club to defeat league-leader Puget Sound this fall.
COMING UP: Linfield visits Lewis & Clark in Portland Wednesday night for a 7 o’clock match, then heads to Salem on Saturday to face Willamette at noon.