SALEM, Ore. – Despite a hat trick from Domenico Del Prete, Linfield dropped its final match of the 2012 season to Willamette by a score of 4-3 Saturday afternoon at the Willamette soccer field.
The ‘Cats showed some promise in the 12th minute, winning a corner kick after Bearcat keeper Bradley Eckerson knocked a shot from Del Prete out of play.
After clearing the ball, Willamette won a corner of its own. Trevor Jensen, who recorded a hat trick last time these teams met, sent in a cross to Erik Kaufman. The header missed wide, but Kaufman got another chance just a few minutes later, this time getting his foot on the ball. Grant Loriaux was able to save the shot, though, and keep the game scoreless.
With less than 10 minutes remaining in the opening period, Bearcat senior Mike McGrew played a ball into the box to Tyler Yates. The freshman forward struck the ball with his left foot from the top of the box and tucked the shot just inside the right post to make the score 1-0.
The Bearcats (10-7-2, 7-5-2 NWC) didn’t stop there, as Austin Jacobson streaked forward with the ball just two minutes before the break. He worked his way into the box and fired a left-footed shot that was blocked. Jacobson got the rebound, however, and drove the follow-up past Loriaux to double the lead.
Willamette came out of the break ready to pick up where it left off, taking a pair of shots and winning a corner in the first minute. Jensen drove in a cross, and a left-footed shot from McGrew missed just wide.
Linfield (7-11, 5-9 NWC) battled back into the match, and Del Prete gained possession in the offensive third just five minutes into the period. The forward patiently moved a pass to Tyler Sedlacek, who touched the ball on to Jake Baker. The ball found its way back to Del Prete on a pass from Baker, and he finished a shot to get the ‘Cats back into the game.
Just one minute later, Del Prete got the ball again at the top of the box. Eckerson came off his line and Linfield’s leading scorer notched his ninth goal of the season to even the score at 2-2.
The Bearcats created several dangerous scoring opportunities, culminating with a shot from Yazan Hishmeh that was knocked down by Linfield’s back line in front of the net.
With 22 minutes remaining, a throw-in from McGrew found the head of Kevin Martin, and then the back of the net as the Bearcats moved back in front, 3-2. Just two minutes later, another throw from McGrew led to Willamette’s fourth goal. Hishmeh tucked a shot from the top of the 18 inside the lower-left corner of the goal, making the lead 4-2.
Linfield refused to quit, and Del Prete wasn’t satisfied with two goals. After three perfect combination passes near the top of the box, Del Prete ended up with the ball at point-blank range in front of Eckerson. His first shot was saved but he managed to get his foot on the rebound and push the ‘Cats back into striking range, 4-3.
The ‘Cats had several chances to pull even down the stretch, but Willmette managed to hold off the final threats.
A SEASON TO BUILD ON: Coming off a disappointing 2-14-1 finish in 2011, the ‘Cats took a significant step in the right direction, more than tripling their win total from all of last year by finishing 2012 with a record of 7-11-0.