No. 2 Pilots win four straight, defeat closest WCC contender, Santa Clara
By Kyle Cape-Lindelin Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org
The women Pilots soccer team continued their terrific run of 26 straight WCC victories with four wins coming against WCC rivals Loyola Marymount, Pepperdine, San Diego and No. 12 Santa Clara.
The wins have all but locked up the WCC crown for the sixth time in the last seven years for UP including the last three straight. The Pilots have only two more games to play in the regular season before starting the NCAA Championship Tournament including the final home game against San Francisco on Oct. 31 when the seniors will be honored and the final game at St. Mary's on Nov. 6.
As long as the Pilots win out their final two games, they should meet their season goal of being awarded one of the four No. 1 seeds in the tournament, guaranteeing home-field advantage throughout.
"Getting one of the No. 1 seeds has always been the goal this season and it probably was the one thing that held us back last year," Head Coach Garrett Smith said. "Just because we're close doesn't mean we can afford to lose sight of what still needs to be done."
The Pilots started off their latest run of wins with a pair of home games at Merlo Field on Oct. 15 and 17 against Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine.
The Pilots finally broke out of their first half scoring slump with two goals coming off the bench in the first half to beat LMU 2-0.
Freshman Michelle Cruz was the first to score in the 31st minute off a pass through the middle from fellow freshman Sarah Bridges.
"Sarah made a great pass and I was right there so I just had to finish it off." Cruz said. "It's great to take the lead early instead of worrying about going down a goal in the second half."
The Pilots struck back again, this time on the legs of junior Halley Kreminski ten minutes later. Kreminski intercepted a pass from senior Elli Reed and barely poked in a goal past LMU's goalkeeper for the insurance goal.
Junior Hailee DeYoung made the start at goalkeeper and made a phenomenal five saves to earn her second shutout.
The Pilots battled hard at home against Pepperdine (7-5-4), who upset UCLA's long standing 73-game winning streak against them coming into the match with UP.
Pepperdine's luck couldn't hold through as the Pilots finally got the game-winning goal from junior Danielle Foxhoven in the 57th minute after a vastly defensive game in the first half.
"Our defense was there for the whole game and it was just a matter of getting one goal," Foxhoven said. "I thought I could get it done and the shot went in."
Freshman Erin Dees continued the Pilots' great goalkeeper play with two saves and her fifth shutout of the season.
The Pilots took down San Diego and No. 12 Santa Clara on the road on Oct. 22 and 24. Both wins came on only one scored goal as both teams gave UP trouble scoring while being unable to control possession themselves.
San Diego was taken down again by Foxhoven who scored in 52nd minute after taking advantage of a mismatched San Diego defender who got caught behind Foxhoven. After taking the pass from sophomore Taylor Brooke, Foxhoven attacked the goal post and sent in the game-winning goal. It was Foxhoven's fifth goal of the season and 46th of her career at UP.
DeYoung made her third shutout start at the goalkeeper position, recording one save; Portland controlled possession for most of the game despite few scoring opportunities.
Sunday's game at Santa Clara was another defensive deadlock most of the way through.
The Pilots themselves had ample opportunities including a shot by senior captain Keelin Winters which barely bounced off the Santa Clara goalkeeper's hand to prevent the goal as the first half buzzer sounded.
"The fact that we don't allow the opposing team many scoring opportunities shows how committed our team is to defense, and that is what wins us games in the end," Smith said.
UP finally scored the game-winner off Kreminski in the 79th minute after finishing a perfect cross pass from sophomore Kendall Johnson.
"It just happens that my goals end up the game-winners but I'm glad I'm able to put the game away when it matters and let our defense handle the rest," Kreminski said following the win.
Santa Clara didn't back down after going down, however, as they turned up the intensity and managed to come close to scoring twice in the final minutes. In the 80th minute a Santa Clara shot bounced off the crossbar while a minute later, Brooke had to made a diving block to preserve the lead and the win.
"Our two goalkeepers have been fantastic and we hope they carry over to the tournament," said Smith. "The fact that we have two starting level goalkeepers that are capable of shutting teams out will mean a lot once tournament play starts."
The four straight wins improve UP's record to 17-1-0 and an undefeated record in the WCC 5-0. The Pilots have been without senior Sophie Schmidt the last several games because she is training with the Canadian National Team in preparation for the World Cup qualifications but she should make her return for senior night against San Francisco on Oct. 31 at 1 p.m.