by Andrew Goodwin, Sports Information Assistant
CHICAGO, Ill. – Micah Weller flew high above a crowd of players and headed home Whitworth's first match-winner of the season as the Pirates defeated the North Park Vikings 2-1 Monday afternoon.
The win gives Whitworth (1-2) some much-needed momentum as they return home after heart-breaking losses to University of Chicago and Benedictine (Ill.). The loss drops North Park's record to 1-1.
The Pirates created the majority of the first half's scoring chances. Their best came from Tyler Pangia. Daniel Alvarez made enough space for a high cross, but Pangia's header found the hands of Viking goalkeeper German Zamudio.
After Alvarez's cross, however, the defenses of both teams dug in for the remainder of the half. The most promising opportunity for either team came on a North Park breakaway, but Whitworth keeper Jesus Nunez saved Shatil Khoury's shot to keep the match scoreless heading into halftime.
North Park would finish the half with a 4-2 lead in shots, and the two teams only had one shot on goal apiece. The end of game stats would favor the Vikings in shots (18-10), but the Pirates had the edge in shots on goal (5-4).
The second half would prove to be more exciting than the first. The teams moved back and forth, both using open space to manufacture scoring chances.
Carel Kozuna broke the deadlock in the 49th minute after receiving a low cross from Arkadiusz Szlachta and depositing a shot into the top right corner of the net. The goal was Kozuna's first of the season and gave the Pirates their third 1-0 deficit of the road trip.
Whitworth battled back. After Kozuna's goal, the Pirates maintained possession for much of the half, turning long spells of ball-control into their pair of goals.
The equalizer would be on Austin Cassity's third assist in three games. Cassity created space on the right side of the field and sent a high, curling cross into the far side of the goal box. The pass found Moi Diaz, who had a simple header to score his first goal of the year. Then, Eric Espinoza found Weller on a 35-yard free kick to take the lead for Whitworth.
To keep the lead after Weller's 65th minute goal, the Pirates needed Nunez to play his best for the second straight night. Nunez answered the call, halting scoring chance after scoring chance, picking up three saves and punching away several crosses and corners. In the end, his effort was more than enough to give Whitworth their first win of the season.
The Pirates' next match will be their home opener. Whitworth takes on Carroll College on Sunday, Sept. 10 at 3:00 p.m.