PLU Men's Soccer Punches its Ticket to NCAA Postseason
NEWBERG, Ore. - Pacific Lutheran punched its ticket to the NCAA Division III men's soccer postseason tournament and also assured itself of at least a share of the Northwest Conference title on Sunday afternoon with a 3-0 victory over the host George Fox Bruins.
The Lutes added to their PLU men's soccer record with their 11th consecutive win, and at the same time set a new single-season mark with their 15th victory of the campaign against just two defeats.
Now with a 12-1 record in conference play, the Lutes assured themselves of no worse than a share of the NWC crown with one match remaining, that a home contest next Saturday against Puget Sound. Only Whitworth, which is 11-2, could tie PLU, but the Lutes have the tiebreaker over the Pirates based on a pair of 1-0 wins in head-to-head play.
For the second straight game, senior forward Chad Kearns notched two goals and an assist, while at the same time the defense was recording its third consecutive shutout.
Kearns and Surafel Wodajo teamed up to put the Lutes on the scoreboard in the 26th minute, but instead of the usual combination of Wodajo to Kearns, it was Kearns feeding the senior midfielder for his third goal of the season. The assist was the seventh for Kearns.
PLU dominated the first half statistics with 15 shots and six corner kicks to just two of each for George Fox, but Wodajo's goal was all it could manage against keeper Elliott Davis, who had five saves in the opening 45 minutes. On the other end of the field, the PLU defense and keeper Joe Rayburn had a couple of close calls, but by the break Rayburn had not been called on to make a save.
The match opened up significantly in the final 45 minutes with PLU managing just one shot more than George Fox, 10-9. But it was the Lutes, and in particular Kearns, who made the most of their opportunities to put the game away.
Kearns, the 2010 Northwest Conference Offensive Player of the Year, got his 12th in the 62nd minute, taking a pass from Giancarlo Santoro and slotting home from about five yards out. Less than a minute later he intercepted a goal kick by Davis and scored for his 13th goal of the season and the 41st of his career. With that tally, he supplanted Mark Stockwell (1981-84) and his 40 goals for third place on the PLU career goal-scoring list.
The Bruins pressed for a goal on the other end of the field and Rayburn was called on to make six second half saves, including two from close range. In the end, he had his fifth shutout of the season.
PLU closes out the regular season at 2:30 p.m. next Saturday when it hosts the third-place Puget Sound Loggers.
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