McMINNVILLE, Ore. – The No. 10 team in Division III overcame a change of venue, late start and torrential downpour to bounce back from its first loss of the year. After relocating from an unplayable grass field at Linfield College to a turf field at McMinnville High School’s Wortman Stadium, Whitworth topped Linfield 1-0 on a wet Sunday afternoon to clinch its seventh Northwest Conference men’s soccer championship in nine years.
Freshman Karl Muelheims scored the game’s only goal in the 51st minute, finishing into the right corner of the net after receiving a cross from veteran Andrew Flint.
The teams had played even through the opening period, with the Pirates holding a slight advantage in both shots (8-3) and corner kicks (4-2).
Linfield’s Cody Escott put the first shot on frame in the 11th minute, except Whitworth keeper Kyle Novak was there to make the save. Just 50 seconds later, Kekoa Mountcastle nearly put the Pirates on the board, but his shot sailed just over the crossbar.
Whitworth again came close again around the 35th minute. Robby Ubben’s header went wide, and he got another opportunity at the goal almost immediately when the Pirates earned a corner kick. That shot, another header, found a sweet spot on the turf but bounced too high, up and over the goal and out of harm’s way.
The Pirates were aggressive coming out of the halftime break, launching two shots and gaining two corner kicks within five minutes of the first whistle. That second corner kick helped set up Muelheim’s goal and give the visitors a one-goal advantage.
Scott Goodman was only credited with two saves, but played spectacularly in his first start since Oct. 12. With 16 minutes on the clock, Mountcastle looked to double the Pirates’ lead, but Goodman came off his line to stop a point-blank range shot from about five yards out.
Five minutes later, Linfield threatened to knot the score. Tyler Sedlacek sent in a pair of crosses in hopes of generating some offense, but the first pass was blocked by a Whitworth defender and the second corralled by Novak.
Danny Snelgrow and Domenico Del Prete each took two shots for the Wildcats, who were shut out by Whitworth for the sixth straight match.
The Pirates improved to 13-1-3 on the season, including 10-1-2 in the Northwest Conference. The Wildcats, meanwhile, saw their record slip to 7-10 overall, 5-8 in league contests.
‘CAT SCRATCH: Prior to relocating to the high school, Linfield honored eight seniors playing in their final home game: Brad Dupea, Escott, Alex Grant, Geoff Kunita, Sedlacek, Snelgrow, Nizar Tarhuni and Harper Taylor…the Wildcats have not scored against the Pirates since Oct. 4, 2009, a 3-1 loss in Spokane.
COMING UP: The Wildcats play their final contest of the 2012 season next Saturday at 2:30 p.m., facing up against rival Willamette in Salem. The Bearcats won the first matchup between the two clubs 3-2 back on Oct. 6