We're number one! Pilots score No.1 seed and home field advantage

By The Beacon | November 10, 2010 9:00pm

After a long time waiting, women’s soccer finally grab No.1 seed in NCAA Tournament, set to play UT-San Antonio

The Pilots will play host to the first two rounds of the playoffs, starting Friday night at 7 (Kevin Kadooka -- The Beacon)

By Kyle Cape-Lindelin, Staff Writer -- capelind13@up.edu

Despite 18 NCAA Tournament appearances including two national championship runs, the women Pilots soccer team was never considered one of the four best teams in the nation. That all changed after Selection Monday. The Portland Pilots can now say that they are a No. 1 seeded team for the first time in school history.

The Pilots were selected to face University of Texas-San Antonio at Merlo Field on Nov. 12 at 7:30 p.m. If the Pilots win, Merlo Field will also play host to the second round matchup of the winner between Washington and Oklahoma, who play each other prior to UP's game at 4:30 p.m.

No. 1 nationally ranked Stanford (18-0-2), the only team that beat UP this season, also received a No. 1 seed as did Maryland (17-2-2) and the defending national champion North Carolina (17-2-2).

"You can't get the smile off my face. After four years I can finally say we're going to play on our field in front of our fans for these big games," senior captain Keelin Winters said after receiving the No. 1 seed news.

Being a No. 1 seed not only recognizes the dominant season the team had but also awards home field advantage through the first two games and potentially until the championship game in Cary, N.C. on Dec. 5 at noon.

The Pilots were slighted the opportunity to be a No. 1 seed in the past because of the school size, perceived weak conference and schedule and a general bias toward big name schools.

"I feel like it's Christmas today," Head Coach Garrett Smith said. "We felt this was something we've deserved for a while and to actually get it shows how our name has grown and people all around the country are recognizing our success and talent we've had."

The Pilots (18-1-1) will rely on their defense throughout the tournament as they have this whole season. UP allowed only one goal scored in WCC play and recorded 11 shutouts during the season on the backs of their two goalkeepers, junior Hailee DeYoung and freshman Erin Dees.

On the offensive side, the Pilots' main weapons are freshman Micaella Capelle, who leads the team with eight scored goals and juniors Danielle Foxhoven and Halley Kreminski, who scored seven and six goals respectively this season.

The team will also regain senior Sophie Schmidt, who scored five goals this year and has since missed games for the Pilots because of her obligations to the Canadian National Team. The Canadian National Team was competing in qualifiers in preparation for the 2011 Women's World Cup in Germany taking place next summer starting June 26.

UP has capable scorers in Winters, freshman Michelle Cruz and sophomore Taylor Brooke, who are constant threats to opposing defenses. The Pilots also possess two of the best backside help defenders in the WCC in seniors Elli Reed and Jessica Tsao. Both played huge roles in limiting other teams' primary scorers.

UT-San Antonio went 13-7-2 for its season and has a solid starting lineup, but nowhere near the depth that UP possesses, which in the end may be the Roadrunners' downfall.

UT-San Antonio has a quick striking offense, evidenced by their 44 goals scored this season, compared to UP's 40.

"We wanted the toughest competition this year and we got it," Smith said. "It truly shows that we belong among the elite and we take our jobs seriously."

Age will also be a issue for the Roadrunners as they only have three seniors on their team and depend on younger players, mostly freshmen, for their offensive scoring. Senior Allison Dillon leads her team with six goals scored while freshmen Maria Jose Rojas and Laylla de Cruz each scored five this season.

Because of its youth and lack of experience, UT-San Antonio will struggle against UP's strong relentless defense.

Playing on the road in front of UP's loyal and unruly crowd will only make things more difficult for UT-San Antonio.

Looking ahead at the brackets, UP could end up rematching against past opponents including San Diego, Penn State, Washington and also the tough former top-five ranked Boston College. All present quality competition for the Pilots in their bracket.

Assuming the Pilots win out their two games in Portland, they will have to travel to face Stanford, who beat them previously this year 3-1, just to get to the championship game.

North Carolina and Maryland are very capable of being the team UP faces in the championship game if they last that long, although North Carolina is experiencing injury problems with some of their most talented players.

"We've got to take care of business ourselves now. We have to win every game we play to reach our final goal of bringing another championship to Portland," Smith said. "Its not about who we play, but how we play that will make the difference."