Whit women return from opening trip

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SALEM — Whitman College’s women’s soccer team is back in Walla Walla this morning preparing for Wednesday afternoon’s Northwest Conference opener against rival Whitworth. The match is slated for 1:30 p.m.

The Missionaries find themselves with a 1-3 season record after playing their first four games of the season on the road.

After a lost weekend in the Midwest, the Whits returned to the Pacific Northwest and earned their first victory of the season on Saturday with a 6-1 trashing of Warner Pacific on the Willamette University campus in Salem, Ore. But the Missionaries found themselves on the losing end again Sunday as Whittier College escaped with a 1-0 overtime victory, also played on the Willamette pitch.

Whitmabn began the season with a 2-1 loss to Webster University and a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Washington University the previous weekend in Missouri.

“I told some of our parents that after having our rear ends handed to us by Washington University that it feels pretty good to put an even bigger number on someone else,” Whitman coach Heather Cato said of her team’s big offensive game against Warner Pacific. “But even better than the six goals is that six different girls scored them, and the five assists are even better.”

But what may have pleased the Whitman coach the most was the Missionaries’ quick response team.

After Warner Pacific’s Christina Mah drilled home a corner kick at the 4:35 mark of the first half to give the Knights a 1-0 lead, it took Whitman just 11 seconds to score its initial goal and set the rout in motion. Senior Jaclyn Rudd scored the goal off an assist from freshman Lindsey Scott at 4:46.

“I didn’t even see the goal,” Cato said. “I had my head down, still thinking about the goal they had just scored. I looked up and said, ‘What happened?’

“But we’ve been talking as a team about how we respond after we get a goal scored on us. This time we took the ball off the kickoff, went down the line and got the ball to Jaclyn, and she finished.”

It was another 12 minutes before Rudd fed the ball to sophomore Justine Kovak, who scored at 16:56 for a 2-1 Missionary lead. And that’s the way it stood at halftime.

The second half, however, was all Whitman as senior Julianne Masser, junior MacKenzie Hughes, senior Misha Evertz and freshman Clara Merlino scored consecutive goals.

“And the good thing was we weren’t even trying to score in those last 15 minutes,” Cato said. “We possessed the ball really well and the girls were working and enjoying playing.”

Evertz’s goal at 78:46 was unassisted. But junior Pamela London dished an assist to Masser on her goal at 48:45 that launched the second-half scoring. Merlino aided Hughes on her goal at 66:34 and sophomore Jada Anderson was credited with an assist on Merlino’s final score at 82:57.

Senior Kelsey Houghton went the distance in goal for Whitman. But she only needed to deflect two shots on goal after yielding Warner Pacific’s early score as the Knights’ offense proved futile against the Missionary defenders.

Whitman, on the other hand, put up 20 shots, 11 of them on target.

“We understand that we can celebrate the win,” Cato said. “But we need to keep battling and keep on top of our game.”

In Sunday’s loss to Whittier, Whitman outshot Whittier 16-4 but failed to find the back of the net. Each team had four shots on goal, and Emily Davis went the distance in the goal and was credited with three stops.

Three minutesl, 13 seconds into the extra period, Rose Marie Orlando received a pass from Ashley Stanford and directed a 14-yard kick from the right side into the net for the game-winning goal.

It was another lesson learned for the Missionaries, and Cato so far is pleased with her team’s attitude.

“What I really like about this team is that everyone understands there will be bumps in the road and that you have to deal with it the right way,” the coach continued. “And this is the first time in my three years that we have been able to do that. Even when we were losing to Washington, we kept battling, where in the past when we were scored on, our faces went ‘here we go again.’

“The mentality this year is completely different, on the field and on the bench.”

“Whitworth is going to be a good test for us early,” Cato said of Wednesday’s league opener. “They are our rival in the conference, our travel partner, and we are constantly wanting to beat them.”

Whitman has two more home conference matches on the weekend, vs. Willamette Saturday at noon and vs. Lewis & Clark Sunday, also beginning at noon.

“We’re playing a lot of Ws,” Cato said, referring to the first letter of her team’s first six opponents. “Hopefully we will get a lot of Ws this week.

“It’s been a very long but very fun first two weeks of the season.”

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