Last fall consisted of many highs for Pilot athletics, like a second podium finish for the men’s cross country team and another winning season for the men’s soccer team.
This fall, Pilots will work to build off of solid 2017 seasons, train with new coaching staff and integrate ranked recruiting classes.
“Excitement around here for the fall is unbelievably high,” Sports Information Director Adam Linnman said. “Fall is obviously one of our busiest and most important times of the year.”
Perhaps the most impressive achievement of 2017 sports was men’s cross country finishing at the NCAA Championships. With Rob Conner as head coach, the Pilots have consistently placed in the NCAA top 25. But even though the team is perennially ranked, men’s cross country is working towards first place, hoping to finally clinch that national title.
“I would say the motivation is the highest it’s ever been to do something...more special than last year, which is really fun,” redshirt senior Nick Hauger said.
Hauger finished 26th in the championship, alongside other individual successes from runners like junior Emmanuel Roudolff-Levisse, the Pilots’ top finisher at 11th. These strong returners could assist in another successful season for the team, which is picked to finish second in the WCC.
Like the men’s team, the women have several strong runners returning to the program, including redshirt junior Taryn Rawlings, who advanced as an individual competitor in the NCAA championships, and All-American Lauren LaRocco, redshirt senior.
Running with these returners is one of UP’s most talented recruiting classes, which consists of Hungarian National Champion Virag Weiler and Canadian National Champion Jasmine Fehr. The women’s team has been picked to finish third in the WCC.
And while soccer culture has always been big at Portland, the UP men’s soccer team has made great strides in just the last few years under the leadership of head coach Nick Carlin-Voigt. With a WCC Championship win in 2016, Pilot fans were expecting another conference title last fall.
But they were disappointed when the men’s soccer team did not repeat the success of the previous year and just missed out on the NCAA tournament, despite having a rigorous schedule, beating high quality teams like Santa Clara, University of Virginia and Pacific University, and finishing the season with a winning 4-2-1 record in conference play.
This year the men’s soccer team is picked to finish second in the WCC, and are looking to continue the upward trajectory for the program.
Spirits are high with a group of talented new team members — including several youth national team players and immediate starters, like freshman Jake Arteaga, the No. 9 recruit in the country — who make up the recruiting class in the nation. This is Carlin-Voigt’s second top 5 recruiting class in his three years at UP, his first being the 2016-2017 recruiting class at No. 5 according to College Soccer News.
A strong group of returners will also push the team forward, including juniors Rey Ortiz and Benji Michel, both of whom have been named to this year’s MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List, making UP one of only two universities with two athletes on the .
The team played to a draw with Sacramento State in their regular season opener 1-1, but came up big in their second game of the year, notching a notable win against Syracuse this past Sunday 1-0.
Though men’s soccer has had a lot of recent success, women’s soccer is historically one of UP’s most iconic programs. But despite its reputation, the team had a tough season last fall, which ended with former head coach Garrett Smith leaving the program.
When All-American Pilot alumna Michelle French was brought on as head coach, spirits rose in hopes that the new “French era” will restore the program to its former glory. After training over the summer and working with the team full of returners, women’s soccer started off their season with win a 2-0 win over Northern Arizona University. Junior Kimberly Hazlett, who was preseason All-WCC 2nd team, scored both goals.
On Friday, they clinched another win in overtime against San Jose State, the sole goal scored by junior Hanna Armendariz. They lost their third game however in a tough battle against University of Washington 1-0
“It’s nice to go into a season like this where you look at all those programs that have had traditional success and you feel good about them and the direction they’re going,” Associate Athletic Director Jason Brough said.
Finally, volleyball is working towards a better season this fall after losing their former head coach, Brent Crouch, who accepted a coaching position at University of Southern California. The program has been overshadowed in the past and hasn’t had much of a reputation in the history of UP athletics.
But Jeff Baxter was brought up earlier this year from assistant coach to fill the position, making it a fresh start for the team. Baxter is expected to continue what Crouch started for the volleyball program: A culture of winning. In the last few years, Crouch took the team from out of the shadow within athletics and set the Pilots on an upward trend. So far they have continued that trend, going undefeated in the Aztec Invitational this past weekend.
“Some programs that have had recent success like volleyball where you’re like ‘Ok where do they go next?’” Brough said. “I think there’s a lot of excitement around that. It kind of sets the tone for us as a department throughout the rest of the year.”