WALLA WALLA — Linfield College held on to first place in the Northwest Conference women’s soccer standings Friday afternoon.
But the Wildcats had all they bargained for and more before finally defeating Whitman College 2-1 in overtime on the Missionary campus.
Emily Fellows’ second goal of the game at 99:31 boosted Linfield to the victory and ended Whitman’s season on an inspired yet disappointing note.
“The team battled and played very well.” Whitman coach Heather Cato said. “The ball just didn’t bounce our way when we needed it to.”
Linfield improved to 11-2-2 in conference matches and 15-2-2 overall. The Wildcats are narrowly ahead of the University of Puget Sound (11-2-1, 12-4-1) in the battle for the NWC championship.
The Loggers were idle Friday before taking on last-place George Fox (2-13-0, 5-13-1) Saturday and entertaining Pacific University (6-7-1, 8-7-3) on Sunday. Pacific plays at Willamette Saturday.
Linfield, meanwhile, closes out the regular season Saturday at third-place Whitworth (10-3-2, 10-7-2).
Whitman got the early jump on Linfield Friday as freshman Clara Merlino took a pass from senior Jaclyn Rudd, streaked down the left sideline and booted the ball over the head of Wildcats goalkeeper Taylor Collinsworth. It was Merlino’s fourth goal of the season.
The Missionaries’ 1-0 lead stood up until 12 minutes into the second half when Fellows accepted a crossing pass from Emma Vukic and thumped the ball into Whitman’s net for a 1-1 tie.
And the tie held up until nine minutes into overtime when the same Linfield duo struck again. This time a ball deflected off of Whitman senior goalkeeper Emily Davis and Fellows was there to rebound the shot into the goal for the victory.
It was Fellows 18th goal of the season.
Whitman outshot the league leaders 8-4 in the first half. But the Wildcats responded after the intermission with a 12-3 advantage in the second half and an 18-11 advantage overall, including the only two shot attempts in overtime.
Davis turned away seven Linfield direct shots while Collinsworth was credited with two saves.
Whitman concluded its third season under Cato with a 4-9-3 conference record, good for seventh place, and a 5-12-3 record overall. Eight of Whitman’s losses were by a single goal and three were overtime affairs.
Whitman played in seven overtime games overall, four of them going double overtime in a span of two weeks.
“I’m so proud of how this team battled and continued to fight through all the setbacks this season,” Cato said. “It may not show in the win-loss column, but we had great successes this season.
“And we will continue to improve, just as we did all year.”