When Pacific Lutheran University women’s soccer coach Seth Spidahl needed to find talent for his team, he had to look no further than up and down the Interstate 5 corridor.
The talent from the I-5 corridor — ranging from California to Oregon to Washington — has put the Lutes (12-0-4 overall) at the top of the Northwest Conference with a 9-0-3 conference record (30 points) and a one-game lead over rival University of Puget Sound (11-2-3, 8-1-3).
“A lot of our roster is I-5 corridor kids, meaning a lot of our roster is between Seattle and Portland,” said Spidahl after PLU shut out Linfield, 4-0, Saturday afternoon at home. “There’s a lot of local talent in the 253 area, the Pierce County area. I’m blessed to be in a good area where I don’t have to go outside Seattle and Tacoma to find talent.”
The Lutes followed Saturday’s win with a 6-0 shutout of Lewis & Clark on Sunday, with local players Hailey Smoot (Puyallup High class of 2014) and Liz Griffith (class of 2015) helping showcasing the area’s talent.
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It’s always so fun, and I’m actually so thankful that Liz (Griffith) is came back here. We needed an outside midfielder, and Liz has been a great addition to the team.
In perhaps her top performance with PLU since she transferred in to the program from Washington State University, Griffith was nimble on the dribble, working and helping to maintain the Lutes’ attack on Linfield.
“It’s always so fun, and I’m actually so thankful that Liz is came back here,” Smoot said. “We needed an outside midfielder, and Liz has been a great addition to the team. She’s already a huge favorite amongst the team.”
Several times, Griffith danced around a defender, only to create a passing lane to Machaela Graddy (Eatonville) and Rachel Ross (Gig Harbor).
Ross’ goal in the 5th minute set up the Lutes with a 1-0 lead at the half, as the PLU kept the Wildcats in a pressure cooker all half long.
The top came off in the second half, beginning with Griffith setting up Ross for her second goal of the game.
“I think I feel better when I’m creating chances instead of scoring goals,” said Griffith, who had just enough of a toe on the ball to push it in Ross’ range. “It’s the feeling of seeing your teammate score, they turn around and you see their (excited) look on their face.”
Griffith finished off the weekend with a goal against Lewis & Clark on Sunday.
As Griffith was coming out of her shell, it was more of the same from the Lutes’ steady midfielder in Smoot.
Last year, Smoot was named to the First Team All-Northwest Conference as well as being named to the Third Team NSCAA All-West Region team.
“She was one of our best midfielders as a sophomore,” Spidahl said. “She was named to the All-NWC Conference team, and she’s one pace to being selected to it again.”
Smoot’s no-nonsense attitude has been the backbone of PLU’s midfield, as the midfielder has been capable of being the go-between for Spidahl and her teammates, as well as the voice of the Lutes among the officials.
You have to let them know when (opponents are) pulling on you. You’re nice and respectful to the ref, let them know what’s happening so they can explain what they’re seeing.
“You have to let them know when (opponents are) pulling on you,” said Smoot, who drew attention about Linfield’s defenders holding PLU players on corner kicks. “You’re nice and respectful to the ref, let them know what’s happening so they can explain what they’re seeing.”
Seconds after drawing attention after one of Lena Moreno’s corner kicks didn’t connect, Smoot was hit and instantly drew a near booking on Linfield.
That style of play has PLU primed to capture the NWC Conference championship with four games remaining.
The Lutes host second-place UPS on Nov. 2. If both teams keep up their winning ways, the game will be for the conference title.
“We just have to take it one game at a time,” Smoot said.