The Pilots travel to Memphis to battle the Florida State Seminoles tomorrow in the second round of the NCAA tournament
By Bruce Garlinghouse Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Last Friday, the women's soccer team found themselves in the same situation as a year ago – a penalty shootout against a Pac-12 team in the first round of the playoffs.
Only this time it was the Pilots who celebrated a victory after an Oregon State shot rung off the crossbar.
Things are looking to come full circle once again, as the Pilots are tagged to face No. 1 seeded Florida State, a team the Pilots beat 2-1 in their home opener.
But head coach Garret Smith said a lot has happened over the course of the season, and tomorrow's match won't feature the same teams that met in early August.
"Their team has grown differently and we have as well," he said. "I bet they didn't think they would have six losses and we didn't think we'd have nine."
That first meeting was promising, as the Pilots were ranked No. 7 and Florida State was No. 4. But the Pilots hit a slump, dropping three games in a row for the first time since 1999, ending the season 9-9 and not atop the WCC for the first time since 2006.
"We didn't know on Nov. 5 if that was going to be our last game or not," Smith said. "We're just happy to be in the playoffs right now and I think we have a great attitude and want to take advantage of this opportunity."
After years of consistently high seeds, sophomore midfielder Ellen Parker said the team is looking forward to being the underdog.
"I love being the underdog," Parker said. "When they are expected to win, you get to just have fun and there is less pressure."
Senior goalkeeper Hailee DeYoung said the team is catching a break at just the right time.
"We got lucky when we needed it," DeYoung said. "We're just taking it as ‘we have one more game to play, there is nothing to lose.'"
With Friday's game in Corvallis less than an hour away, a slew of fans were able to make the trip and DeYoung said it felt like a home game.
Tomorrow's game is at a neutral site in Memphis and the Pilots won't see nearly the same fan presence, but Parker said she thinks that works to their advantage.
"I think its great we're playing at a neutral site," she said. "We have to travel, they have to travel. It's equal. It continues to give us hope and encouragement."
Florida State also hit their stride heading into the postseason.
The Seminoles won the ACC, beating Wake Forest and North Carolina who handed them two of their six regular season losses.
Known for taking a lot of shots, FSU will place DeYoung and the backline under heavy fire, having outshot the Pilots 22-11 in their first meeting.
This is no new occurrence, as the Pilots have been outshot in nearly all of their games this season.
"We look for quality shots," Smith said. "We don't want to beat them in shots we want to beat them in goals."
DeYoung said she has accepted that each game may be her last, but added that is not how she has been preparing.
"It could be anyone's last game for the season," she said. "I prepare like it is a playoff game and I just want to continue to win."