Pacific rallies from behind but loses to the Pioneers on an 87th-minute goal

NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: AMANDA MILES - Pacific sophomore McKenna Davidson gets off a shot past the outstretched foot of 
Lewis & Clark's Raquel McNeff during last Saturday's Northwest Conference match.During the second half of Saturday’s women’s soccer match, everything seemed to swing Pacific’s way.

Until, suddenly, it didn’t.

In a pivotal clash for Northwest Conference positioning against Lewis & Clark, the Boxers rallied from a two-goal first half deficit and appeared to have momentum on their side before yielding a late goal off of a free kick and falling in a 3-2 thriller at Lincoln Park Stadium.

With the defeat, Pacific dropped to 6-2-2 overall and 3-2-1 in NWC contests, while Lewis & Clark improved to 7-2-1 overall and 4-1-1 in the conference.

“We brought it as a team in the second half, but I think we just broke down for a split-second and that’s what killed us in the end,” said Kara Lankey, who led Pacific with a goal and an assist. “We just have to learn from that and move forward.”

With the game tied 2-2 in the waning minutes of the second half, the Boxers gave up a foul deep in their own defensive third. From the right side of the field, Emilia Emmetti sent the ball into the penalty box and the Pioneers’ Isobel Fikso used her 5-foot-10 frame to get her head on the cross, sending it past Pacific goalkeeper Kayla Davidson in the 87th minute for the game-winner.

The score meant there was precious little time for the Boxers to equalize, though they came close. McKenna Davidson shot from distance with about 30 seconds remaining, but Lewis & Clark goalkeeper Geena Fong made the save at the near post.

Early on, the match seemed to be the Pioneers’ to lose after they scored twice inside the first 30 minutes. Marissa Sandgren put the visitors on the scoreboard in the 16th minute. After the ball rattled around the penalty area, Sandgren’s shot from about 10 yards beat Davidson to the right side of the goal.

The situation got worse for the home team in the 26th minute, when Lewis & Clark doubled its lead on Anna Thorndike’s low strike to the far post from outside the penalty area.

That put the Boxers in an unusual position this season, as it was just the second time they have trailed by more than one goal in 2013. Rather than caving in, they answered quickly. Just two minutes after that second Pioneers goal, Lankey took the ball toward the left endline and drilled a shot to the far post past Fong to pull a goal back. The score was Lankey’s fifth in three matches and her team-leading eighth overall.

“I didn’t really know what was going to happen,” Lankey said. “I just went for it, took them on.”

After being outshot 15-4 in the first half, the Boxers came out fighting in the second stanza, applying heat with several free kicks and corner kicks. Finally, the pressure paid off in the 73rd minute on a corner kick, Pacific’s seventh in the contest. Lankey sent the ball into the Pioneer’s penalty area, where Kamryn Plechot was at the back post to meet it, heading the ball past Fong from close range for the tying goal.

The Boxers did not seem content with just equalizing. Though they came away empty-handed, they continued to test the Pioneers defense over the next six minutes, recording three more shots and another corner kick.

“I’ve been on teams where once they score on you ... your head’s down,” Lankey said. “But this team really seems to pick it back once they score and try to equalize it. That’s really positive.”

Then, with just a handful of minutes remaining, victory seemed even more possible. After fouling Lankey on two throw-ins, Lewis & Clark defender Grace Mehlhaff drew two yellow cards just 39 seconds apart and was sent off, giving Pacific a one-player advantage for the rest of the match, which could have proved handy in overtime.

Instead, Lewis & Clark converted its set-piece opportunity against the run of play, snapping the Boxers’ unbeaten streak at four matches.

In all, Lewis & Clark outshot Pacific 21-13. Davidson notched 10 saves, while Fong had eight.

After playing just one match last weekend, the Boxers will play three over the next week. They travel to Salem this Saturday for a contest against last-place Willamette, but the opponents get tougher from there.

On Sunday, Pacific heads to Tacoma, Wash., for a game against Puget Sound (5-2-2, 3-1-2), the 11-time reigning conference champion. Next Wednesday, the Boxers kick off the second half of league play by hosting conference leader Linfield (9-1, 5-1), which defeated Pacific 4-2 in both squads’ NWC opener on Sept. 18 in McMinnville. The rematch is slated for a 7 p.m. start.

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