WALLA WALLA - Senior defender John Fleming celebrated his first college goal late in the first half and senior captain Conner Bottomly added an insurance goal in the 89th minute as Whitman College won its fifth straight soccer game with a 2-0 shutout of Willamette University Sunday at the Whitman Athletic Fields.
Whitman stayed in third place in the Northwest Conference, improving to 8-3-2 (10-6-3 overall).
Pacific (9-2-2 NWC, 13-2-3) retained its precarious hold on first place by nipping Puget Sound 1-0 on Sunday.
Pacific Lutheran (9-4 NWC, 10-7-1) remained in second place by blasting George Fox 8-1.
The NWC soccer standings are keyed to point totals based on three points for each victory and one point for each tie. Teams receive no points for a loss. That means Pacific heads to next Saturday's final NWC games with 29 points. Pacific Lutheran has 27 points and Whitman 26.
Pacific concludes its regular season by hosting George Fox, which is 0-12-1 in conference play. Pacific Lutheran finishes at Puget Sound (6-4-3 NWC, 9-5-5), its cross-Tacoma rival.
Meanwhile, Whitman battles Whitworth (7-4-2 NWC, 10-5-2) next Saturday. That game starts at 2:30 p.m. at the Whitman Athletic Fields.
While Whitman found goals hard to come by against Willamette on Sunday, it piled up a 28-4 advantage in shots and a 7-2 edge in corner kicks.
One of those Missionary corner kicks led to Fleming's goal with four minutes left in the first half. Sophomore Jed Jacobson took the corner as Fleming drove into box, heading the ball with authority past beleagured Bearcat keeper Eben Hellekson.
Prior to Fleming's score, Hellekson had already faced 16 Missionary shots, making six saves. The barrage of first-half shots included a bullet from senior Beau Morton that rattled the crossbar in the 25th minute.
Whitman's first goal came less than two minutes after one of the Bearcat players picked up his second yellow card and was sent from the field.
Despite playing the entire second half with just 10 men on the field, Willamette held its own and turned back 12 more Whitman shots before yielding a second goal at the 88:44 mark.
Taking a pass from freshman Riley Hernandez, Bottomly connected from 20 yards out on the right side. It was his third goal of the weekend and seventh of the season.
Oddly enough, Bottomly's goal came less than two minutes after a second Willamette player was sent from the field with a second yellow card. The Bearcats picked up six cards in all while three were handed to Whitman players.
Whitman sophomore Leland Matthaeus nearly gave his side some breathing room with 20 minutes left in the second half, popping a ball over Hellekson's head toward the goal. One of the Bearcat defenders stopped the shot just before it reached the goal line.
Matthaeus led the offense with seven shots, five of which were on frame. Whitman also got six shots from Bottomly, five from Jacobson and four from sophomore Andrew Clark.
Willamette managed just four shots, two in each half. Trevor Jensen took two of those shots while Pete Kline put his only shot on frame, forcing Whitman keeper Michael Bathurst to make his only save early in the second half.
For Bathurst, a first-year sophomore, the shutout was his third of the season.