McMINNVILLE, Ore. - With just 11 seconds remaining in the first period of overtime, Emily Fellows got her head on a loose ball in the box and sent Linfield to a much-needed, emotional and well-earned 2-1 victory over first-place Whitworth in a Northwest Conference match Saturday afternoon at the Linfield soccer field.
The ‘Cats are no stranger to overtime matches; this marked the third consecutive contest to go to extra time.
Linfield (8-1-2, 4-1-2 NWC) took the opening kickoff and won a corner within the first minute of the game. Emma Vukic sent in a perfect cross, and it took a punch from Pirates’ keeper Andrea Stump to prevent the ball from reaching Fellows’ head.
The Wildcats set the pace early and controlled the flow of the game from the start. Whitworth (6-5-1, 6-1-1 NWC had trouble clearing the ball, and the ‘Cats continued to string passes together and push into the box.
Moving through the mid part of the half, the Pirates began to establish some offensive rhythm, and Linfield keeper Taylor Collinsworth had several touches on the ball.
Linfield coach Dominic Doty used substitutions wisely in the first, rotating in four fresh players in an attempt to bolster the offense. The moves nearly paid off with ten minutes remaining, as a pair of subs nearly combined for the first goal of the match. A corner kick from Zoe Langsdorf found the head of Christine Tamamoto, but her shot missed just high.
Linfield’s best chance of the first came with just under eight minutes remaining as Fellows gained control of the ball inside the box. The lethal striker turned and shot, and the Pirates breathed a collective sigh of relief as the ball glanced off of the crossbar.
With five minutes remaining, disaster struck for the ‘Cats. Whitworth won its first corner of the game, and after moving the ball into the box, Katrin Grant scored from close range on the Pirates’ first shot of the game.
Despite being out shot 13-1 in the half, Whitworth carried the 1-0 advantage into the break. The ‘Cats forced Stump to make four saves, thanks in large part to five corner kicks.
In desperate need of an equalizer, Linfield came out of the break with intense pressure and immediately moved the ball into the Pirates’ half. Just three minutes into the period, Stephanie Socotch gained possession at the top of the 18-yard box. The midfielder took two touches and curled a left-footed shot past Stump and into the lower right corner of the net to even the score at 1-1.
With half an hour to play, the Pirates came close to regaining the lead. After a foul just outside the box, Carly Schilperoort took a shot on a set piece that appeared to be on its way to the net. The ‘Cats were at the mercy of their own frame, as the ball rattled off the crossbar and the game remained tied.
With just over 15 minutes remaining, Grant weaved her way through Linfield’s back line and had a one-on-one with Collinsworth. The Wildcats’ keeper came off her line and smothered the loose ball. Though she was injured on the play, she stayed in the game.
Both teams battled hard through the final whistle, but the clock ran out with the score stuck at 1-1.
With a pair of back-to-back corner kicks to open the first period, the Pirates nearly sneaked away with a victory.
The ‘Cats battled strongly, and earned a corner kick of their own in the waning seconds of the first overtime. Fellows ended the match with the header goal, her 11th of the season.
'CAT SCRATCH: The Wildcats topped Whitworth at home for the first time since the 2005 season...last year, the teams tied in McMinnville and Linfield won in Spokane...with the loss, the Pirates lost ground in a close race for the league title with an idle day Sunday...Whitworth remains in first place with 19 points, but Puget Sound (16) and Linfield (14) are close behind and both the Loggers and Wildcats are active Sunday...Kendra Howard made her first career start.
AHEAD: Linfield plays host to Whitman Sunday in more NWC play. Kickoff is scheduled for noon.