SANTA CRUZ, Calif — Down by a goal with a just under seven minutes to play, the Whitman College women’s soccer team got two late goals from Clara Merlino on two assists from Kelsey Roehner and pulled off a 2-1 victory over the University of Redlands at the UC Santa Cruz Slugfest Sunday.
On Saturday at the tournament, Whitman’s Mackenzie Hughes and Justine Kovak scored second half goals to break a scoreless tie and the Missionaries posted a 2-0 win over La Verne University.
The victories improve the Missionaries’ record to 4-0, matching their best start since 2003.
“It was a great win for us, but even more, a great response,” said head coach Heather Cato afterwards. “Redlands is a good team and challenged us for 90 minutes. We went down 1-0, but the team played with determination and passion.”
In this tightly contested match, all the scoring was done in the second half. The Bulldogs took the lead at the 53:38 mark when Lihini Weerasinghe put a sliding shot past Whitman goalie Emily Davis into the right side of the net.
Whitman continued to apply pressure, outshooting Redlands 12-7, and the Missionaries finally broke through when Merlino scored her second goal of the season, heading a pass from Roehner inside the far post and tying the match a 1-apiece with 6:53 remaining n regulation.
The Missionaries had no interest in overtime, and 3:40 after leveling the affair, Roehner fed Merlino in front of the goal for a tap-in and a 2-1 advantage.
The defense did its job the rest of the way and Whitman walked away after two games in California still undefeated.
On Saturday, after a scoreless first half, Whitman broke the tie in the 54th minute when Elyse Laurin received the ball wide, beat a player and then sent a cross into the box. Kovak finished with a terrific header, depositing the ball in the back of the net. It was Kovak’s first goal of the season and Laurin’s second assist.
With less than three minutes left, Hughes clinched the match with her team-leading third goal on a penalty kick. Emma Onstad-Hawes drew the foul that led to Hughes’ penalty kick.
“We had to battle today,” Cato said. “We came out a bit flat in the first half but were able to play our style in the second. I’m proud of these young women for what they’ve accomplished, but we know as a team that we have to keep working and improving ourselves in order to continue moving forward.”
Whitman again plays Redlands in the final match of the tournament at 3 p.m. today.