After a satisfying 4-0 victory over the U-20 Canadian National Team on March 22, the Pilots face one of their biggest challenges of their lives as recently created Portland Thorns FC of the National W
By Taylor Tobin, Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Pilot fans will get to see their women's soccer team compete against some of the best players in the world. The newest Portland pro sports team, the Portland Thorns FC, play the Pilots at Merlo Field on March 30 at 7 p.m. Thorns and former Pilots, Angie (Woznuk) Kerr, Danielle Foxhoven and Christine Sinclair (who may not be attending due to National Team commitments) will return to their old stomping grounds for an exhibition match.
"I'm nervous in a good way. It's high quality soccer. We haven't played a team like that in a long time, maybe ever. [They've] got the best two forwards in the world right now," junior forward Amanda Frisbee said. "It's a great opportunity to see what the professional level has to offer."
Head Coach Garrett Smith looks at the opportunity to play the Thorns as an honor. He knows his team will benefit from experiencing a professional level of play.
"It's just great to see a professional franchise here in Portland, and it's exciting to have their first game be on Merlo Field," Smith said. "Our players aspire to play at that level. I think this will be a good eye-opener for them. [Professionals] are not distracted by school work and studies, they just get to focus on their soccer. It will be good for us to see that."
The Pilots women's soccer team showed the strength their fans like to see in a shutout win (4-0) against the Canadian U-20 National Team on March 22. After a scoreless first half, the team picked up pace in the 51st minute with junior forward Micaela Capelle scoring her first of two goals for the night.
"The more games, the better for us. These girls want to play soccer. They don't want to train; they want to play," Smith said. "Just to play a quality opposition like Canada was great for us."
Capelle said the team will focus on playing together, understanding each other and playing their best soccer.
"We don't want to be a kickball team; we want to be able to play around people," Capelle said.
For sophomore midfielder Emily Sippel, spring games are a chance to work on getting in shape, game-ready, and comfortable with the girls they have now.
"My mentality is to get game fitness under my belt. Everyone gets good playing time with the low numbers. We have eight new [girls] coming later," Sippel said. "If we have a solid foundation right now and build it through spring, that will be really good for next season."
With the seniors gone and the incoming recruiting class, ranked fifth in the nation, not on the team yet, current freshmen to get more experience in a game setting.
"Spring is really important. We're really trying to figure things out," Capelle said. "To get the freshmen playing more than they did in the fall,[competing] together and seeing how each of them play is great."
Smith notes that during the regular season it can be tough for freshmen to settle in. This time of the year they can focus on their game, instead of preparing for specific opponents.
"During the fall season [we're] just trying to prepare for the next game, and chasing our tail a little bit," Smith said.
The Pilots vs. Thorns match begins at 7 p.m. and is a free event with a suggested donation to benefit the Providence Heart and Vascular Institute's Play Smart Young Heart Screening program at the door.