McMINNVILLE, Ore. – Needing three points to maintain control of first place as the battle for the Northwest Conference women's soccer championship tightens up down the stretch, No. 19 Linfield battled a tough Whitworth club for 106 minutes before earning a 3-2 win in double overtime on a wild Sunday afternoon at the Linfield soccer field.
Tegan Grunwald scored the “golden goal” game winner with 3:02 on the clock in the second and final overtime period, helping the Wildcats (14-1-1, 10-1-1 NWC) wrap up the home schedule with a perfect 10-0-0 record and secure a key conference win on Senior Day. Whitworth, meanwhile, dropped to 6-7-4 overall and 3-6-4 in the NWC.
Sophomore goalkeeper Andrea Stump made 14 saves in a valiant defensive effort for the Pirates, who scored twice in a five-minute stretch that spanned intermission to put the ‘Cats on the ropes. Linfield outshot Whitworth by a substantial margin, 33-5, but the Pirates were statistically more accurate with their scoring opportunities, converting on attempts from Molly Smith and Jami Hegg in the 44th and 49 minutes, respectivey.
All-time leading scorer Emily Fellows put the Wildcats on the board in the 17th minute on a pretty shot taken from a few yards beyond the penalty box. The ball weaved right and looked to sail wide, but curved back into the right corner of the goal for Fellows' conference-leading 18th goal of the season and a 1-0 Linfield lead.
Taking 17 shots and earning six corner kicks alone in the first 45 minutes of action, Linfield had plenty of chances to pull away, but could not do so before Whitworth notched the tying goal in the 44th minute.
Smith scored in the closing minutes of the half off a pass from Whitworth leading scorer Tiara Pajimola. As Taylor Collinsworth charged out of the box, Smith sent the ball over Linfield's keeper into the right corner of the net for her first goal of the year and the first for the Pirates in four matches.
Whitworth continued to push offensively after the break , and earned a free kick a few yards outside the penalty box. Hegg stepped up to the ball and sent a shot skipping past the Wildcat defensive wall and straight into the right side of the goal, giving Whitworth a 2-1 lead just 3 ½ minutes into the second period.
Playing from behind for just the third, time all season, the Wildcats made some good runs into their offensive half, but the Whitworth defense held up until the 55th minute. Linfield earned yet another corner kick, its seventh of the match, and Emma Vukic (Sr., Bainbridge Island, Wash.) sent in a beautiful pass to Ellie Schmidt, who drilled a header into the left corner to pull the home team even at 2-2.
The ‘Cats had plenty of opportunities to regain the lead in regulation, but to no avail. About 62 minutes in, Molly McCool played a through ball to Fellows, who crossed it to the opposite left side of the box. Grunwald one-touched it toward the goal, but straight to Stump, who made her 10th stop of the match to deny the go-ahead score.
Fellows had a one-on-one opportunity against Stump with about 19 minutes to play, but Stump made yet another great defensive play to preserve the tie.
Whitworth controlled possession over the final minutes of regulation to force overtime, and held the Wildcats to just three shot opportunities in the first extra session. But Linfield's high-octane offense could not be contained through 110 minutes.
With a little more than three minutes to play, the ‘Cats earned a free kick, taken from several yards outside the penalty box by Lauren Pyrch. The junior defender served the ball into a crowded box, where Grunwald found it near the right post and knocked it in for the 3-2 win.
Stump finished with 14 saves on the afternoon, while Pajimola paced the Whitworth offense with two shots.
‘CAT SCRATCH: The Wildcats went undefeated at home for the second consecutive season…combined with 11 home victories in 2012 and a season-ending win in 2011, Linfield has won 22 straight contests in McMinnville…Schmidt raised her season total to eight goals, while Grunwald contributed her fourth score of the 2013…Fellows has scored in 12 different matches this year…Collinsworth made a pair of saves to improve to 5-0-0 on the season...the 'Cats maintained their hold on first place in the conference team standings with 31 points...Puget Sound remains close behind with 29 points.
SENIOR DAY: Prior to the match, the Wildcats honored a total of nine players departing the program at season's end: seniors Marie Johanson, Kara Grant, Amy Hammerquist, Erin Harris, Sara Miller and Julia Vaughan along with juniors Collinsworth, Kendra Howard and Jasmine Jett, who are part of Linfield's nursing program and will attend the Portland campus next year.
NEXT: Linfield hits the road for its final four matches, beginning with back-to-back contests at George Fox and title contender Puget Sound next Saturday at Sunday. Both matches, and all those remaining on the conference calendar, start at 11 a.m.