Pilots prepare to tame the Cougars

By The Beacon | November 7, 2012 9:00pm

After winning five of their last six games to end the season, the Pilots earned a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament. UP hosts Washington State tomorrow at 7 p.m.

(Photograph courtesy of portlandpilots.com)

By Katie Dunn, Staff Writer dunn16@up.edu

The Pilots blew their preseason prediction of finishing eighth in the WCC out of the water. The regular season ended Nov. 3 with a win against San Francisco 5-0 and UP finished second in the conference with an 11-4-4 overall record just behind WCC champion Brigham Young University. UP earned a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament for the 13th consecutive year and their 20th in 21 years. They will host Washington State tomorrow, Nov. 9 at 7 p.m.

WSU is 12-6-1 going into the playoffs. The Cougars made the tournament after going on a three-game winning streak, defeating Pac-12 rivals Oregon State, Oregon and Washington. They have appeared in the playoffs four of the last five years.

Last year the Pilots finished fifth in the WCC and lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The team hopes this postseason will be a different story.

The general sense is that the team is peaking at just the right time. Junior defender Kendall Johnson was named 2012 WCC Defender of the Year as well as being named to the All-WCC first team with junior forward Amanda Frisbie. Frisbie also was named WCC Player of the Month for October.

"I have an unbelievable team that surrounds me and I could not do it without them," Frisbie said.

The Pilots overcame a short slump in the middle of the season to end with five wins in the last six games.

"We can handle anything," Johnson said. "We've come back, we've lost and we've faced a lot of challenges."

The postseason holds teams that are at the top of every conference in the country, but head coach Garrett Smith has complete confidence in his team.

"I don't think any team wants to play us in the country now," Smith said.

With a healthy team and a set group of starters, the Pilots have gotten into a groove with each other. They don't want to break up the consistency this team is putting out on the field, and will keep a set lineup in the playoffs.

With only one senior, defender Taylor Brooke, the Pilots were looking for everyone to step up and play their role to get to achieve their goal of post season play.

"Our motto has been 'Show Them Portland'. We need to not respond to them and just show them what we have," Frisbie said.

The game Nov. 3 against the San Francisco Dons showed everyone who Portland is and how they are approaching the playoffs. The Pilots scored five goals and had 28 shots in their 5-0 win. This win moved them up to second and solidified a spot for UP in the playoffs.

The Pilots are no strangers to the playoffs and know they have to keep bringing the effort and focus onto the field no matter who they play. The Pilots have focused on defense and being energetic from the first minute to the last.

"We need to keep our momentum going," Johnson said. "We can not take any game for granted and have to come out with lots of energy."

WCC Player of the Month and All-WCC first team selection junior forward Amanda Frisbie fires a shot against San Francisco. (Photograph courtesy of portlandpilots.com)