Pacific men rally with two straight road victories

Boxers get back on track with a pair of NWC triumphs against Linfield and Willamette

The Linfield-Pacific men's soccer rivalry might just represent this season's Northwest Conference race in microcosm - contentious, highly competitive soccer.

Patrick Murray scored the game-winning goal midway through the second overtime period on Sunday as the Boxers defeated the Wildcats, 2-1. That victory, combined with Pacific's 2-1 triumph over Willamette on Saturday, improved the Boxers to 2-2-0 in conference play and 2-6-0 overall.

'Pacific Lutheran was the only other (NWC) team to win both games this weekend,' said Pacific head coach Jim Brazeau. 'Everyone has a loss already. It's a wide-open race and a lot of teams are vying for the title.'

For the second week in a row, the Boxers were just minutes away from securing a victory in regulation only to have it snatched away when Linfield's Chris Snelgrow scored on a header off a free kick to tie Sunday's game at 1-1 in the 84th minute.

A week prior, almost to the minute, the Boxers watched Whitman score an equalizer and eventually win in overtime. This time, Pacific goalkeeper Michael Summers saved Linfield's only shot in the first overtime period and Murray sealed it in the 104th minute with his second goal of the game.

In the second overtime, freshman Grady Bryson played a ball over the top to Devin Shull, who flicked on to a waiting Murray. The senior calmly cashed in with the game-winning goal, putting the Boxers right back in the thick of the NWC race after a six-game losing streak to start the season that included an 0-2 mark in conference play.

The Shull-to-Murray connection was truly golden for Pacific on Sunday, as the 6-foot-7 forward found the Second Team All-NWC midfielder in the 60th minute for Pacific's first goal of the game.

'Patrick Murray had a great weekend,' Brazeau said. 'He has stepped up and is leading this team in a way that we've expected him to.'

Murray also scored a goal on a penalty kick in Saturday's victory over Willamette. The senior banged home a spot kick in the 48th minute to tie that game at 1-1, and Shull lifted the Boxers to victory with a great strike in the 71st.

'(Devin) took a great shot from the top, tucked it inside the left post,' Brazeau said. 'Very composed finish. We'd been attacking them very steadily throughout the second half.'

Shull's goal helped Pacific rally from a 1-0 halftime deficit and snap a six-game losing streak. He was also involved in the Boxers' first goal, drawing a foul in the box to set up Murray's penalty kick.

'Shull was fouled in the box by three of their defenders on a corner,' Brazeau said. 'He had guys on him the whole time because he's so big. Obviously he's a big target for us to get offensive opportunities and other teams having to deal with him.'

The Boxers play the hump game of their five-game road trip at Puget Sound on Saturday before facing Pacific Lutheran the following day. Both games are scheduled to kick off at 2:30 p.m.