SPOKANE, Wash. – Stephanie Socotch scored twice to lead Linfield to a record-setting 16th victory, a 2-0 win over Whitworth Saturday afternoon at the Whitworth soccer field.
In a season that has seen numerous highs and lows, including a first-ever appearance in the NCAA Division III Top 25, Linfield has done all it could to position itself for what would be the biggest first of them all: a Northwest Conference title.
All the ‘Cats can do at this point is sit back and wait, in hopes that Pacific can upset or tie Puget Sound in the final match of the regular season Sunday afternoon.
Against the Pirates, Linfield once again displayed its defensive dominance in route to its record-breaking 11th shutout. Keeper Taylor Collinsworth (Jr., Bend, Ore.) got a touch on the ball early, making a save in the eighth minute on a shot from Whitworth’s Tiara Pajimola.
It didn’t take long for the ‘Cats to stick their noses in front. In the 20th minute, Socotch contributed her third goal of the season after Emily Fellows (Jr., Portland, Ore.) sent in a cross from the right side.
Emma Vukic (Soph., Bainbridge Island, Wash.) nearly doubled Linfield's tally four minutes later, but Pirates keeper Andrea Stump got to her shot to prevent a goal. Stump was kept busy throughout the first half, making six saves.
After Stump stopped another shot from Vukic, Socotch got on the board again with a score from the top of the box, giving the ‘Cats a 2-0 lead in the 31st minute.
Linfield (17-2-2, 13-2-2 NWC) kept momentum on its side throughout the first half, overpowering the Pirates with 15 attempts. The ‘Cats won four corners in the opening period, with Fellows nearly scoring on one that Zoe Langsdorf served in. Her header shot was on target, but Stump made the save.
The ‘Cats made a strong statement to close the first, taking five shots in the last five minutes to keep Whitworth on its heels. Linfield carried its aggressive play into the second half, as two shots from Fellows missed high and wide, and one from Anna Sours was saved by Stump, all within the first 14 minutes of play.
With their defense under constant pressure, the Pirates (10-9-2, 10-5-2 NWC) struggled to build any attack on the opposite end of the field.
The Wildcats kept their foot on the gas through the closing minutes, bringing their shot total to 30 on the day, nine off their season high. Fellows led the way for Linfield with 14 shots, four more than the entire Whitworth lineup, and Vukic sent in four more towards the net.
Defensively, Collinsworth capped off the regular season with a save on a corner kick in the 90th minute. Her counterpart, Stump, finished with 12 saves to prevent Linfield from pulling completely out of reach.
A DAY FOR THE BOOKS: In addition to setting the program record for single-season victories (16), Linfield also one-upped the previous record for NWC victories, finishing with 12 on the year…Collinsworth tied the single-record for shutouts with eight…she also owns the record for most wins (15) in a single season.
NWC TITLE RACE UPDATE: Linfield currently sits in first place in the Northwest Conference with 38 points, but Puget Sound (37) has one game left to play Sunday against Pacific. If the Loggers win, they earn their 11th consecutive NWC title and the league’s automatic berth in the NCAA playoffs. If the Loggers lose, however, Linfield claims its first-ever NWC title and postseason berth. In the event of a tie between Puget Sound and Pacific, the ‘Cats and Loggers would be named co-NWC champions, but Linfield would be the automatic qualifier by virtue of the third tiebreaker: win-loss-tie points achieved against third-place team (Linfield defeated Whitworth twice; Puget Sound split the two-game series).
NCAA SELECTION SHOW: The field of 64 teams chosen to compete in the 2012 NCAA Division III Women’s Soccer Championship will be announced during a live video show Monday at 10:30 a.m. local time.
Anchors Linfield defense that has surrendered just 10 goals
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