PORTLAND, Ore. – Pulling off a major upset and doling 25th-ranked Linfield the back end of consecutive losses for the first time all season, Lewis & Clark earned a 2-1 victory and spoiled the Wildcats' chances at a program-first Northwest Conference championship Friday at Griswold Stadium.
Molly McCool scored the lone goal for the Wildcats, tying the match at 1-1 in the 67th minute before Anna Thorndike knocked in the game winner less than 10 minutes later to help the Pioneers (10-8-1, 7-7-1 NWC) break the program record for conference victories and avenge a 5-0 loss to Linfield earlier in the year.
Combining the Wildcat loss with a 4-0 victory at Pacific, Puget Sound opened up an insurmountable four-point lead in the team standings, assuring the Loggers of 12th straight conference title and automatic berth into the NCAA playoffs. Sitting at 15-3-1 overall (11-3-1 NWC) with one match left to play Saturday at Pacific Lutheran, Linfield must hope to receive an at-large bid to the postseason tournament when the field is announced Monday morning.
Against the Pioneers, the ‘Cats had numerous opportunities to take an early advantage, but could not capitalize on five corner kicks and six shot attempts over the first 30 minutes of action. Megan Ratfield had no problem on the opposite end of the field, scoring from 40 yards out into an open net to give Lewis & Clark a 1-0 lead in the 36th minute.
The Wildcats had few chances to pull even before the break, as a corner kick proved fruitless, a shot attempt from Emily Fellows was blocked and an offside call negated another attack.
Linfield outshot the Pioneers 6-1 over the first 21 minutes of the second period, but could not get past keeper Geena Fong, who made three saves during that stretch, until the 67th minute. McCool split the defense and scored from 15 yards out, giving the Wildcats life with plenty of time remaining.
The Lewis & Clark defense held firm, however, and gained some breathing room on Anna Thorndike's team-leading ninth goal of the season. Working in the box, sophomore slipped between a pair of Wildcat defenders and scooted a shot past Linfield keeper Kallina Haase to help the Pioneers regain the lead. Earning just three looks at goal over the final 17 minutes of action, Linfield could not force overtime.
Haase made two saves for a Linfield defense that allowed just four shots for the match. Fellows took five of the Wildcats' 19 attempts at goal, with Tegan Grunwald supplying four more looks, including three on target.
‘CAT SCRATCH: Linfield suffered back-to-back conference losses for the first time since the 2009 season…the Wildcats did not surrender a single corner kick while earning nine on their offensive end of the pitch…Marie Johanson made her first start of the year and the fourth of her career…Linfield can still tie the program record for single-season victories (16) with a win Saturday.
AHEAD: Linfield takes on Pacific Lutheran in the regular-season finale for both teams Saturday at 11 a.m.