McMINNVILLE, Ore. – Physical play and penalty kicks, particularly the third one, ruled the day at the Northwest Conference men's soccer finale between Linfield and Willamette, with the Bearcats coming away with a dramatic 3-2 double-overtime victory Saturday at the Linfield soccer field.
Trevor Jensen supplied all three goals for the Bearcats, who maintained their fifth-place standing in the conference team standings with a 10-6-3 overall record, including a 6-5-3 win-loss mark against league foes.
Jake Baker and Domenico Del Prete kept things close with one score each for the ‘Cats, who tied a season high with 23 shot attempts for the match. Despite the loss, Linfield still bettered its season record from last season, finishing at 8-9-1 overall (5-8-1 NWC).
An exciting opening half provided plenty of offensive highlights, as both teams scored twice over the first 45 minutes. Baker put Linfield up early, besting Bearcat keeper Braydon Calder on a penalty kick. Calder dove to his left, but Baker shot the ball straight up the middle for his fourth goal of the season and a 1-0 Wildcat lead.
Linfield maintained its advantage for less than 10 minutes, with the Bearcats scoring twice within a minute to steal away the lead. Jensen knotted the score at 1-1 with a long shot sent past starting Wildcat goalkeeper Jorge Rodriguez.
Only 51 seconds later, a foul on the Linfield defense in the penalty box gave Willamette another prime scoring opportunity. Jensen put it in, giving the Bearcats their first lead against their rivals all season.
Del Prete got the ‘Cats back in the game in the 42nd minute, firing a shot that bounced off Calder's hands and into the goal.
The second half started out right how it ended: exciting. Linfield earned a free kick, but it was cleared and Willamette quickly countered. The Bearcats earned four corner kicks and saw two headers from Sebastian Mortimer and Will Neil just miss the net.
Linfield had its chances, too, with one shot each from Del Prete and Baker nailing the post. In all, the two clubs combined for 21 shot attempts in the second half, but the rivals were bound for extra time.
The Bearcats had the early momentum and nearly ended the match just 20 seconds into the first overtime session, but Grant Loriaux jumped on Yazan Hishmeh's attempt near the right post to keep action going for a while longer.
With 4:43 remaining in the second overtime period, Harper Taylor nearly provided some heroics on Senior Day. After a free kick opportunity appeared to break down for the ‘Cats, Eric Conte sent in a long cross that Taylor got a touch on. Unfortunately, the senior defender missed just wide, leaving both teams still searching for the golden goal.
The Bearcats kept pressing, earning two corner kicks over the final two minutes of action. It paid off for Willamette when the visitors earned a penalty kick in the box, which Jensen knocked in for the game-winning score.
For Linfield, Del Prete led all Wildcats with seven shots, including four attempts on goal. Rodriguez and Loriaux split the time in goal, making eight saves combined.
‘CAT SCRATCH: Willamette outshot Linfield 10-1 in the two overtime period...prior to the match, seniors Cameron Norris and Harper Taylor were honored for their contributions to the Linfield men's soccer program…a physical match resulted in seven yellow card infractions and 33 fouls…Baker finished the year with a perfect 3-for-3 conversion rate on penalty kicks…Linfield gave up just one penalty kick all year.