WALLA WALLA - A superlative scoring effort by Hallie Swan in the last minute of play lifted Whitman College to a 3-2 Northwest Conference soccer victory over Whitworth University on a warm Wednesday afternoon at the Whitman Athletic Fields.
The game, which opened the NWC season for both schools, evened Whitman's season record at 2-2 while Whitworth dropped to 0-3.
The visiting Pirates twice battled back from one-goal deficits, scoring late in each half to pull even on the scoreboard.
After Whitworth's second goal, which was poked into an open net by Allie Wilson in the 79th minute, the game steered a steady course toward overtime.
But that's when Swan donned her Superwoman cape, taking a ball left in the middle of the field by teammate MacKenzie Hughes on a quick right-to-left run just outside the 18-yard box.
Turning the corner just a bit on her defender, Swan sent a left-footed strike over Whitman keeper Callie Bergstrom to the far corner of the net. The game-winner came with just over 40 seconds remaining.
"It's a great win for us," Whitman coach Heather Cato said.
"Whitworth is a good team that battles hard, but our response at the end is exactly what we want from our side. That's the mentality we want to see in our team."
The Pirates nearly scored early in the game, but Sarah Berentson's shot kicked off one of the posts in the ninth minute.
Whitman countered by taking four of the next five shots, forcing Bergstrom to make two of her three first-half saves.
The Missionaries broke the scoring ice with about 10 minutes left in the half when Amy Hasson headed home a corner kick from Jaclyn Rudd. It was Hasson's fourth goal of the season.
Whitworth came right back, scoring less than two minutes later when Cory Druffel played a ball through to Jill Pecka, who beat Missionary keeper Emily Davis one-on-one.
Whitman regained the lead at 2-1 in the first minute of the second half. Helen Brown, a first-year forward, picked up a ball near midfield and outraced the defense for a one-on-one opportunity against Bergstrom.
As Bergstrom moved forward, Brown slipped around her and tapped the ball into the open net. It was Brown's first college score.
"Helen had the same kind of opportunity in our win over Eastern Oregon, but she kicked the ball right at the keeper," Cato said. "This time she kept her composure and scored easily."
The Pirates kicked their offense into a higher gear at that point, outshooting Whitman 4-2 while mixing in three corner kicks as the rest of the half played out.
The pressure paid off when a scoring threat pulled Davis out of the box as the game approached the 80-minute mark. When Davis was unable to control the ball, Berentson played it back to the center of the field for Smith's game-tying tap-in goal.
Whitworth uncorked two more shots and two more corner kicks before Swan and Hughes collaborated on their game-winning play.
"That was a great shot by Hallie, but we needed all three goals to win this one," Cato said.
"We played much better in the first half, but our defense was able to hold off a very determined Whitworth team in the second half, and then we found a way to win."
The Pirates enjoyed an 8-4 edge in shots in the second half, when Davis made four of her five saves for Whitman.
"We put ourselves under a lot of pressure in the second half because we didn't keep possession of the ball," Cato said. "We wanted to just kick the ball down the field. When you do that, the ball comes right back at you."
Hasson put three of her five shots on goal to pace Whitman's attack. The Missionaries also got three shots (two on frame) from Rudd and two from Swan.
Berentson took six shots for the Pirates, who also got three from Smith and two each from Druffel and Pecka.
Both Whitman and Whitworth continue NWC play this Saturday and Sunday, traveling to western Oregon to play Pacific and George Fox on alternating days at noon.