McMINNVILLE, Ore. – Returning to their winning ways and maintaining a perfect record at home, the 25th-ranked Linfield Wildcats scored twice in each half to rout the rival Bearcats from Willamette 4-1 on a sunny Sunday afternoon at the Linfield soccer field.
The Wildcats improved to 9-1 overall, including 5-1 against Northwest Conference opponents, while dealing the Bearcats (2-8, 0-6 NWC) their eighth consecutive loss.
Emily Fellows got the offense rolling with her conference-leading 11th goal of the year, and was part of a scoring quartet that also included Kendra McSheridan (Sr., Maple Valley, Wash.), Ellie Schmidt and Sara Miller.
A week removed from its last live competition, Linfield showed no sign of rust, nor a hangover from the recent loss to Whitman. The ‘Cats pushed into the penalty box early and often, but Willamette used its size to deflect connecting passes and break up those initial attacks.
Twenty-three minutes in, patience paid off for the Wildcats, who scored amidst the scrum that resulted from their third earned corner kick of the match. With nearly a half dozen players fighting for possession in front of the goal, including Willamette keeper Nicole Price, Fellows came away with the ball and easy tapped it into the middle of an open net.
Ten minutes later, Linfield nearly doubled its lead when Emma Vukic sent a pass to a streaking Tegan Grunwald, who faced a one-on-one opportunity with the Bearcat keeper. Price dove near the right post to stop Grunwald's attempt, a play that denied the ‘Cats another score but provided a different kind of scoring opportunity: another corner kick.
Vukic served the ball from the right side directly to Price, but the ball slipped through the keeper's hands and straight to McSheridan. The freshman defender showed zero hesitation, firing the ball into the back of the net from about 15 yards out for her first career goal.
Willamette sent several through balls downfield, but the offensive opportunities were essentially just flashes in the pan as the Bearcats totaled just two shots – taken by Emma Sanders and Sarah Desautels – over the opening 45 minutes.
A throw-in from Rachel Fleener with about two minutes remaining in the first half allowed the Bearcats to threaten, but the Linfield defense cleared the ball out of the box and sent the 'Cats into the halftime break with a 2-0 lead.
Midway through the second period, Fellows and Schmidt connected for a third Wildcat goal. The junior captain sent a through ball to Schmidt, who dribbled upfield alongside her defender and on a collision course with Price, who came out to challenge the play. Schmidt timed her attack perfectly, however, scooting the ball past Price for a slow rolling shot that pinged off the right post and into the net.
The ‘Cats kept pressure on, and just minutes after entering the game, Miller pushed the spread to four goals in the 79th minute. The senior took aim from beyond the penalty box and snaked a slow roller past Price and off the far post.
Willamette responded almost immediately, spoiling the Wildcats' bid for their sixth shutout of 2013. Situated about halfway between the midfield circle and the penalty box, Bearcat junior Desautels sent a moon ball toward the goal, sailing it well out of reach of Linfield keeper Taylor Collinsworth.
But the Bearcats, who were outshot 20-4 over the entire match, had no more opportunities to close the gap after Desautel's goal and were left searching for their first conference win.
‘CAT SCRATCH: McSheridan became the 11th Wildcat to score a goal this season…Linfield was twice called offside…the ‘Cats have scored two or more goals in eight of 10 matches this year…Linfield boasts a 5-1-1 record against the Bearcats dating back to the 2010 season...a foggy start to the match gave way to sunny skies and temperatures in the mid 60s.
NEXT: Linfield enjoys back-to-back home games for the first time in the month of October when Pacific Lutheran and Lewis & Clark come to McMinnville. The Saturday and Sunday matches are both scheduled for noon.