McMINNVILLE, Ore. – Stephanie Socotch kicked off a string of scoring, and Linfield remained at the top of the Northwest Conference standings with a 3-0 victory over Willamette Sunday afternoon at the Linfield soccer field.
With Whitworth defeating Pacific Lutheran in other Northwest Conference action, the Wildcats and Pirates each maintained their share of first place with 23 points.
Against Willamette, Linfield (11-1-2, 7-1-2 NWC) moved the ball well early, pushing into Bearcat territory and working to build scoring opportunities. Julia Vaughan took a shot from the right side of the box four minutes in, but Willamette keeper Nicole Price jumped to make the catch.
Anna Sours beat a Bearcat defender down the right side, and the ‘Cats won a corner kick after her cross was knocked over the endline.
Willamette (5-9-1, 3-7-1 NWC) built its first serious threat on a counterattack after a Linfield corner. The Bearcats combined several consecutive passes, which culminated in a shot by Maddy Grainger that was saved easily by Taylor Collinsworth.
With 31 minutes to play, Vaughan got another shot off, this time with her left foot from just outside the 18-yard box. Price was forced to tip the ball over the bar, resulting in another corner for Linfield.
The Wildcats kept the pressure on, relentlessly firing shots from close range. Sours continued to create problems for Willamette’s defense, sending in another cross, this time to Emily Fellows, whose shot was saved by Price.
After taking a pair of shots, Socotch wound up with the ball at her foot amidst a cluster of players from both teams. The midfielder struck the ball past the diving reach of Price, and put Linfield ahead 1-0.
Willamette had a chance to equalize with 15 minutes remaining, but a shot from Andi Rowan flew harmlessly into the outer side netting of the goal.
With 1:15 remaining in the first, substitute Rachael Gernhart fought her way into the left side of the box. She sent in a cross to Fellows, who finished a shot from inside the six-yard box to double Linfield’s lead just before the break.
The ‘Cats took the opening kick in the second half and picked up right where they left off. Vaughan carried the ball down the right side and into the 18-yard box, but her shot from ten yards out was saved by Price.
Emma Vukic struck the ball from the top of the 18 moments later, and Price deflected the shot off the left post.
With half an hour remaining, Linfield established a commanding lead, as a loose ball was tapped into the back of the net by Vukic. Sours sent in a ball from the left side of the field, and when Price bobbled it, Vukic seized the opportunity to score her sixth goal of the year and put the ‘Cats up 3-0.
Mallory Nickles nearly put the game away a minute later, as her shot from 30 yards out was headed for the upper left corner of the goal. Price leapt, however, and pushed the ball just over the crossbar.
Linfield maintained possession moving into the later part of the second half, and shut down Willamette’s attack through the closing minutes.
The Wildcats won an impressive 16 corner kicks, and outshot Willamette 28-4.
NEXT UP: Linfield travels to Tacoma, Wash., Saturday to take on Pacific Lutheran in Northwest Conference play. Game time is scheduled for noon.