McMINNVILLE, Ore. – A defensive stalemate between Linfield and Whitworth prevailed for 53 minutes until sophomore Sam Engle broke through, propelling the Northwest Conference defending champion Pirates to an eventual 1-0 win over the Wildcats Saturday afternoon at the Linfield soccer field.
Gaining possession on the right side of the box with about 37 minutes to play, Spencer Wolfe pushed the ball to Engle on the opposite site of the goal. Engle, one of the tallest players on the field at 6-foot-4, navigated his shot past Linfield keeper Jorge Rodriguz, who had come out of the box in an attempt to break up the play.
The Wildcats (3-2, 0-1 NWC) surged late in the closing minutes of each half, but were shut out for the second straight match after recording a season-high seven goals in a preseason game against Walla Walla University.
Perhaps the best opportunity for Linfield to score came in the first half, when Brian DeGrantmont broke loose on the right side of the field. He took aim, looking for the near post, but Shane Nishioka-Healy made the stop look easy.
The Wildcats earned a corner, which Tyler Repic sent into the box from the right side. In a bang-bang sequence, DeGrandmont and Jake Smith (Sr., Hillsboro, Ore.) launched shots at the goal, which were saved and blocked, respectively. Smith tried again, but by then Nishioka-Healy had gathered himself to make yet another save, his fifth of the match to that point.
In the second half, the Pirates (3-1-1, 1-0 NWC) pressed early, putting up a pair of shots within the first four minutes. The strategy paid off when Engle scored in the 53rd minute, a goal that proved to be the game-winner.
Playing through some chippy play on both sides, the Wildcats – benefitting from some fresh legs – put one final charge together over about a five-minute stretch late in the second half. Linfield earned two corner kicks and got a good look at goal from Smith, but his shot sailed wide.
For the match, the PIrates outshot the host Wildcats 10-8 and also held a 4-3 advantage in corner kicks.
‘CAT SCRATCH: Whitworth extended its winning streak against Linfield to 16 straight matches…the Wildcats last came close to defeating the Pirates with a 1-1 tie during the 2005 season.
UP NEXT: Linfield plays host to Whitman Sunday morning at 2:30 p.m.