SPOKANE, Wash. - Whitworth scored twice early in the match before adding four goals after halftime for a commanding 6-1 win over visiting Willamette on Sunday afternoon during Senior Day at the Whitworth Soccer Field.
The No. 9 Pirates (15-1-1, 11-1-1 Northwest Conference) remained in first place atop the conference standings with the victory, staying one point ahead of second-place Pacific Lutheran. Whitworth completed a season sweep of Willamette (5-11-2, 4-8-1) and finished 2015 with a perfect 9-0-0 record at the Whitworth Soccer Field.
Whitworth will have a chance to clinch the NWC title and earn an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament with a win over Whitman in its regular season finale next Saturday. A draw or loss will leave a window of opportunity open for Pacific Lutheran to possibly tie or overtake the Pirates in the standings, depending on the result of the Lutes' final match of the regular season against Puget Sound.
Karl Muelheims scored twice Sunday for his second consecutive two-goal game, helping Whitworth to an early lead.
Muelheims scored from close range in the eighth minute to open the scoring, putting away a cross sent into the 18-yard box from Sam Donaldson.
Sam Engle doubled the Pirate lead during the 22nd minute with an assist from Muelheims. Muelheims fired a ball toward goal from near the top of the 18-yard box on the right side of the field and Engle was able to redirect the shot into the goal for his eighth goal of the year.
The score stood at 2-0 until the 51st minute when Muelheims took a long pass upfield from Engle and worked his way down the left side of the field to score from close range at the near post.
Espinoza added a second assist in the 66th minute when he fired a shot that was blocked but then possessed and finished by Tyler Cardinale from roughly 10 yards away. Cardinale scored for the second consecutive day.
In the 87th minute, Willamette's Eric Spresser was able to steal the ball from Whitworth goalkeeper Tony Watters as the Pirates attempted to pass the ball around their back line. Spresser took a few touches and scored to a mostly open goal with Watters and the defense out of position.
The Pirates held a 19-15 edge in shots, including an 8-6 edge in shots on goal. In addition to the goals scored, several opportunities provided chances for even more offense. Muelheims hit the post with a shot in the first half and the Bearcats hit the crossbar with shots on two occasions. Whitworth missed a penalty kick chance late in the game as well.
Willamette goalkeeper Braydon Calder played the majority of the contest but was replaced later in the second half by Josh Fuentes, who collected two saves. The Pirates scored with each of their five shots on goal against Calder.
With four goals over the weekend, Muelheims increased his NWC-leading goal total to 19. His 19 goals rank in a tie with John Gould (1988) for the most goals in a single season by a Whitworth men's soccer player.
The Pirates honored eight outgoing members of the program prior to the start of the game with a Senior Day ceremony. The group has helped the program to a 56-9-10 record over the last four seasons with two conference titles and two NCAA tournament appearances.
Whitworth concludes the regular season at Whitman next Saturday. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.