WALLA WALLA — In front of a vocal home crowd of more than 130, the Whitman College women’s soccer team scored a goal in each half, with Mackenzie Hughes and Clara Merlino performing the honors, as the Missionaries defeated Whitworth 2-0 Friday night in their Northwest Conference opener.
The victory improves the Missionaries’ record to 5-0, overall, matching their best start since 2002, and 1-0 in conference.
Whitworth falls to 3-2, overall, and 0-1 in the Northwest Conference.
“I’m so proud of this team and what they’ve accomplished (so far) while understanding that we have so much more to accomplish,” Whitman coach Heather Cato said. “It’s been a long time since this program has started 5-0, so I am really proud of them.”
The five wins, also, match the team’s win total for all of last season.
Whitman’s first-half goal came at the 13:18 mark when Hallie Swan stole the ball, broke free and let loose a rocket from outside the box that Whitworth goalkeeper Taylor Floyd was able to block — the ball bouncing about five yards in front of her. Merlino raced to the ball, which was rolling near the left post, and slid a shot past the scrambling Floyd.
“It showed great determination to not quit on the play and Clara did a nice job of finishing the rebound,” Cato said.
With the match’s outcome still hanging in the balance, Hughes had a free kick from about 35 yards just right of the goal. She sent a floating shot that cleared the outstretched arms of Floyd and sailed into the upper left-hand corner of the goal with 16 minutes left in the game.
Whitworth had one final good look after Hughes’ goal. Jackie Day got free just outside the box, and fired a shot that was slightly wide to the right. Davis, already committed, dove and made the save.
Meanwhile, the Missionaries had several shots on goal down the home stretch.
As was the case in their four previous wins, the Missionaries controlled the ball and outshot their opponent, 19-4, giving them an overall shooting edge in their five wins of 90-22.
These two teams match up again today at Whitworth at 2 p.m.