By PJ Marcello, Staff Writer -- email@example.com
Men's soccer beat Oregon State 2-0 on Saturday in this week's spring game led by scorers, freshman Thomas Iwasaki and sophomore Ricardo Carrillo.
So far the men are (1-1-1) in their three spring games against the University of Washington, Seattle Pacific and Oregon State. The spring games primarily give coaches and players a chance to experiment.
"This is a good chance to practice new systems," sophomore forward Ben Hemphill said. "We've been implementing a different midfield strategy and getting used to it now is helpful. It would go disastrously if we tried to start practicing it in the fall."
The men struggled in the first two games against UW and SPU in which they had a 2-2 draw and a 2-1 loss respectively. However, the team has made a lot of progress since and is getting more comfortable playing as a team following the win over Oregon State.
"Against Washington we had a little trouble, but we did much better against OSU," freshman midfielder Steven Evans said. "The spring season is used to see where we're at, and it's cool to see how much we have improved over the last two weeks."
The spring games are especially helpful to young players who are not used to the pace of a college game.
"It's a good opportunity for freshmen who didn't get a chance to play in the fall to get playing time and learn in the spring," Hemphill said. "A lot of young players like Matt Dally are doing well and learning the new systems."
The team gets to play some top talent over the course of the year and even in the preseason. They will play against the USA U-18 team Saturday at the Nike Campus in Beaverton.
"Being able to play the U-18 team will be really neat. It's great that we get to see other big programs, like playing Virginia last year, who has won a National Championship," Hemphill said. "Playing bigger schools and programs gives us motivation and a chance to learn by going against players touted as future first round MLS picks."
The Pilots like their chances against these big programs too. They believe they can be competitive versus any team in the country.
"The big schools are pretty darn impressive, but at the college level any team can win on any given day," Evans said. "It would be cool to get a chance to beat a big team like Akron or UCLA."
The men will continue to work toward that goal of being a top tier program in the country. They are beginning to build a reputation and bring in top recruits, such as Mitchell Lurie who was just named to the USA U-18 roster, and Steven Evans, who was the 2010 WCC Freshman of the Year.
"We're not to the level of the women's program but we're working toward that," Evans said. "All of our players are really good even without the accolades. We just want to continue to have a better season than the one before, and to be the top program in Oregon."
Women's soccer starts 3-0 in spring games, following a 2-0 win over Washington State Saturday with goals from juniors Danielle Foxhoven and Halley Kreminski.
The spring schedule has allowed the team to try out some new positions for players as well as giving some younger players some time out on the pitch.
"This spring we've been trying some people at some new positions, which is a process," junior defender Kassi McCluskie said. "We're on the right track though. Team chemistry is the best it's been in a long time."
So far the position changes and building up of young players has fared well for the team, which has won all three of its spring games against the University of Washington, Trinity and Washington State.
"This is helpful for the young players because the seniors don't play, so it's a smaller roster," junior defender Emma Nelson said. "It builds confidence for the younger players and gets them used to college games without as much pressure."
The Pilots relish the opportunity to play these spring games after months of training and working out without outside competition.
"The spring is hard, so when we finally get a chance to play, we get pretty giddy and excited to be on the field," McCluskie said.
The team is excited about the young prospects and the opportunity to build off of the success from last season.
"It feels awesome to be part of a program where we can bring in players that can play with the team almost immediately," McCluskie said. "A big reason for that is the team bringing in our pre-frosh on visits together so they are already familiar with the team and we are friends before they are really even at the school."
The team is losing seven seniors this year, including team leaders Elli Reed, Keelin Winters, Jessica Tsao and Sophie Schmidt. They have their work cut out for them in the rebuilding process, but they are confident they have the players to step up.
"We're losing some irreplaceable seniors, but our upcoming players have their own unique strengths to bring to the team," Nelson said. "They know that they have to step up and use their own talents instead of being the players that are leaving."
One thing that the women will not be losing is the strongest fan support in the country at Merlo Field.
"We have the best fans in the country, which gives us a huge home field advantage," Nelson said. "Teams are scared to come here and we like to give our fans their money's worth."
The Pilots will play one more game this spring at Merlo Field against Oregon State on Saturday at 1 p.m.