Pilots soccer returned to Merlo Field under the lights last Friday, Aug. 27, where they hosted their home openers against Cal and Air Force. With more than 2000 fans in attendance, Clive’s Army made sure their presence was felt early, filling the student section with energy and emotion.
“It’s pretty incredible to be back. The energy, morale and the positive vibes that you get when you come out here is something we couldn’t be more excited for,” Women’s Head Coach Michelle French said. “Having our team be able to come out here and perform is very special.”
The double header started off with the Women’s team hosting the 20th ranked Cal Golden Bears. The first half was competitive, with both teams kept on their heels.
Cal started the match aggressively on the offensive side of the ball as they were able to get five shots off in the first 15 minutes of the game. The Pilots responded by pushing downfield. Midfielder Rylee Seekins sent a through ball to forward Taryn Reis, who fouled shortly after.
Freshman forward Cally Togiai was unable to capitalize on the penalty kick in the 46th minute, and the score remained tied at zero at the end of the first half.
The second half showed a much more aggressive approach from the Pilots. Despite multiple chances at the goal, they were still unable to score.
With the match neck-and-neck throughout the second half, Cal’s Anysa Gray converted on a rebound shot in the 84th minute, giving the Golden Bears a 1-0 lead. The Pilots were unable to match. Cal finished with another goal in the 90th minute and came out victorious.
French praised the team for dealing with COVID-19 protocols to make this season possible.
“The way our players responded to the adversity was pretty incredible,” French said. “We have seen great things during training and now we just have to translate it to the field. We have great opportunities to take a step forward every day."
The Men’s team finished the double header with an astounding win over the Air Force Falcons, energized by playing in front of a student section full of fans.
“The toughest part about playing during a pandemic was definitely not having the crowd,” Men’s Head Coach Nick Carlin-Voigt said. “The crowd was fantastic tonight. I want to shout out Pilot Nation and thank them for everything that they have given us.”
It didn’t take long for the Pilots to put points on the board as true freshman winger Sebastian Nava was able to convert on a rebound shot in the eighth minute.
“Being able to score and help the team get a win was amazing,” Nava said. “This is just the start for me and the team.”
Portland stayed aggressive on the offensive side of the ball for the majority of the first half. The Air Force mirrored that aggression, opening multiple opportunities to score. At the end of the half, the Pilots led 1-0.
The second half was competitive. The Air Force had multiple promising possessions, but they were unable to capitalize.
The Pilots defense was aggressive and controlled throughout the match. Pilots goalkeeper George Tasouris shut down Air Force’s attempts at the goal, finishing the match with seven saves.
Portland was able to secure their win in the 60th minute when Buba Fofanah got off a shot in the box. The Pilots came out on top with a final score of 2-0.
“We have some fantastic leaders in this group,” Carlin-Voigt said. “If I had one word to describe this group, it would be ‘together.’
Men’s soccer lost 0-1 against Denver on Monday, Aug. 30. They will play again at home on Friday against Oregon State at 7 p.m. The women’s team will play away tomorrow against University of Washington at 6 p.m.
Keawe Strance is a sports reporter for The Beacon. He can be reached at email@example.com.