Whitworth’s win over Puget Sound Sunday at Whitworth Field didn’t just give the Pirates the Northwest Conference title and an automatic bid into the NCAA Division III tournament. It gave them history.
Whitworth (15-1-1, 12-0-1) became the first men’s team to repeat as conference champions since the league moved to the NCAA’s Division III. It’s a feat coach Sean Bushey said the team had as a goal from the beginning of the season and one made sweeter by beating the rival Loggers.
“We were excited to win it,” Bushey said. “Beating Puget Sound is always enjoyable because they always are the ones (we’re) competing (against). We had a goal of being first in NWC to repeat as men’s champions. To go back-to-back in this conference is a good accomplishment, and we feel good about that.
“To be honest, we celebrated a little, but now we’re focused on the next part of the season.”
That next part consists of the Pirates, currently ranked No. 1 in the NCAA’s West Regional poll and No. 6 in the NSCAA/adidas National Rankings, finishing the regular season at Whitman Friday before hopefully hosting an NCAA tournament game.
Bushey isn’t underestimating Friday’s matchup in Walla Walla in terms of its importance to the Pirates’ chances of hosting the first-round NCAA matchup.
“The game against Whitman is important,” Bushey said. “We have the No. 1 seed in the West region, so that bodes well in our favor. We want to stay sharp. We want to get guys playing time, but we want to win.”
The Division III bracket expanded from 45 to 56 teams in February and Whitworth will find out where and when (the Pirates could play Nov. 9 or get one of eight first-round byes and play Nov. 12) it will play its first NCAA match Sunday.
Showler likes Vandals’ direction
Idaho finished its 2005 season with a 2-0 loss at Utah State Sunday, finishing the season at a lowly 3-16, including a 1-6 record in the Western Athletic Conference.
But despite the poor record, head coach Peter Showler was pleased with the way the team played and the progress it made over the season. Minus one crucial factor.
“We definitely possessed the ball well,” Showler said. “Our pattern of play has developed as the season has gone on, we just couldn’t finish the sandwich sometimes. We created an awful lot of chances, but we didn’t put the ball in the onion bag this season. But I was very, very pleased at how we possessed the ball and played the game.”
Showler was also pleased with the team’s outlook, despite the less-than-ideal record.
“What I was very happy with was how positive they remained and how receptive (they were) to the new coaching,” he said. “… I feel the program is going in the right direction; the seniors this year set the foundation for where the program goes in the future.”
Sasquatch prepare for postseason
Community Colleges of Spokane’s women’s team has one game left in the regular season before the Sasquatch start preparations for the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges playoffs.
Saturday, the Sasquatch, who will make their fourth straight NWAACC playoff appearance after finishing third the last two years, will host Walla Walla (16-0-1, 49 points), who have already clinched first place in the NWAACC’s East Division. CCS (12-2-3, 39 points) tied the Wolves 2-2 earlier this season at Walla Walla, the only NWAACC game WWC hasn’t win thus far this season.
And though the game will have no bearing on the standings, that doesn’t mean it won’t hold significance. A win for the Sasquatch would provide invaluable momentum heading into the postseason.
“It will be an interesting game because they are one and we are two, and nothing will change after game,” CCS coach Jim Martinson said. “It will definitely be a momentum builder for the playoffs for both of us. We are going to approach the game the same way we did the first time (we played). The score was 2-2, but I thought we beat them and just didn’t get the points. Our approach won’t change.”
The Sasquatch men, in third place in the NWAACC’s East Division with a 9-5-3 league record (30 points), host Walla Walla Saturday at Spokane Falls and then will travel to the North’s No. 2, Shoreline, Nov. 9.
Gonzaga’s women, ranked No. 25, tied Saint Mary’s 0-0 Sunday, the Bulldogs’ fifth straight shut out. Senior goalkeeper Ashley Haugen leads the West Coast Conference in goals against at .30 per game and is tied for the conference lead in shutouts, with four. The Bulldogs (11-3-4, 2-1-3) are in third place in the WCC. … Gonzaga’s men had a rare three-game weekend, beating Loyola Marymount 3-2 Friday before falling to San Diego Sunday 2-1. The Bulldogs (5-7-4, 3-4-2 WCC), tied for fifth place in the WCC, then rallied to beat San Diego 3-2 Monday, a make-up game from Oct. 2, when Martin Field was deemed unplayable. … North Idaho’s women closed out the year with a 2-1 loss in the Region 18 tournament in Salt Lake City. The Cardinals finished 11-7-1 overall, 5-2-1 in the Scenic West. … The Cardinal men (12-1-3, 5-0-1) beat Colorado Mountain 5-0 at the Region 18 tournament and will travel to Prescott, Ariz., to take on Yavapai College, the winner of the Region 1 tournament.
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