TACOMA, Wash.—The Puget Sound men's soccer team weathered blustery conditions and a physical George Fox team, clinching the Northwest Conference title Saturday on Peyton Field in Tacoma, Wash.
The Loggers opened the match with a significant advantage: playing with the wind in the first half. Puget Sound took advantage of the help, earning a corner kick a minute and a half into the match. Eneko Bereziartua fired the ball into play, and it curved directly into the goal for Bereziartua's first goal of the season.
The Loggers kept up pressure, tallying another corner just 45 seconds after the goal. The next Puget Sound shot came in the 10th minute, when Colin McIntosh fired an attempt, but George Fox goalie Luke Ridder saved it. Ridder tallied another save when he got his hands on a shot by Logger midfielder Sam Zisette.
In the 27th minute, the Loggers received a penalty kick after George Fox was whistled for a penalty inside the goal box. Carson Swope stepped up to take the freebie and promptly buried it, tallying his conference-leading 12th goal in the process.
After Swope's goal, the Loggers registered four more shots in the period. Nicholas Campanelli saw an attempt saved by Ridder in the 36th minute and another quality shot blocked in the 41st.
The Bruins tallied two shots in the first period, that coming in the 19th minute. For the first one, Angelo Florez was coming hard into the near post and received a cross. Florez's touch, however, sent the ball just wide of the goal mouth and out for a Logger goal kick. Florez also tallied George Fox's second shot of the period at 38:50, sending a ball straight into the arms of Logger keeper Nathan King.
After the halftime break, Campanelli tried to add to the Logger lead, finding another shot on goal just 45 seconds into the half. Ridder saved it, his fourth save of the match. The Loggers threatened again in the 53rd minute when Campaneli hit the post with a shot. The rebound was collected by Connor LaFerriere and shot on target, but Ridder came up big again, tallying his fifth and final save of the night.
During the second half, the Logger defense again limited George Fox to just two shots. Ulysus Torres fired an attempt that went wide in the 68th minute and one by Miguel Loepz Ixta saw a shot blocked in the 84th minute. By keeping the Bruins out of the Logger net, the Puget Sound defense kept its' sixth shutout and fourth in a row.
The Loggers did their part by taking three points Saturday, but they had to wait for a result from Spokane, Wash., where Whitworth and Willamette were squaring off. Whitworth had to win each of their three games remaining to have a chance at the conference title, but that possibility was eliminated immediately after the Pirates and Bearcats drew even at one goal apiece.
With the results, Puget Sound clinched its fourth NWC title under head coach Reece Olney. They hadn't won since 2006, however, and snapped a seven-year title drought. "It's nice to bring a fourth Northwest Conference men's soccer championship back to Puget Sound, but the players deserve all the credit," said Olney about his team's title. "They've done everything required all season long and earned the right to be called champions."
With the conference title in hand, the Loggers (13-4, 11-1 NWC) can now concentrate on sending their seniors off right as they wrap up their home schedule Sunday, Nov. 3 at 1:30 pm against Pacific. Before the match, the Loggers will honor the squad's 11 seniors and recognize them for their service to Logger soccer and the University of Puget Sound as a whole.