Women’s soccer prepares for Portland Pilots

By Davis Jones

Women’s soccer midfielder Lauren Dotson still feels the sting of last season’s overtime home loss to the University of Portland Pilots. Her team’s tying goal in the 62nd minute of the contest came before the Pilots kicked in a loose ball from a penalty kick nearly nine minutes into the overtime period. Now a senior, Dotson hopes to switch roles in the team’s Oct. 24 trip to the Pacific Northwest.

“It was a lot of disappointment,” Dotson said. “Whenever you go into overtime, it’s a gut-out, who has the most heart to pull it through. We just didn’t get it done last year. We were disappointed, but we haven’t stopped thinking about it since.”

The Thursday contest against the No. 5 Pilots marks the latest in a series of Torero battles with one of the top NCAA soccer programs in history. Striker Christine Sinclair, a U.S. professional for Portland Thorns FC and Olympic captain for the Canadian national team, led the Pilots to two National Championship wins during her freshman and senior seasons in 2002 and 2005. The team has won 12 West Coast Conference championships in the last 21 years, including four out of the last seven. Its success in the postseason is equally impressive; out of 69 games played since the 1992-1993 season the Pilots have won 48 of them, a winning mark of almost 70 percent.

Other star players besides Sinclair have graced the team’s roster. U.S. National Defender and Olympic Gold Medalist, Stephanie Cox, followed her redshirt freshman season with the team’s 2005 championship, an exclamation mark to a year in which the team went undefeated with a record of 23-0-2. She was recognized as the nation’s best women’s soccer player in 2007 after being awarded the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award. Megan Rapinoe, a national team midfielder widely known for her assist to teammate Abby Wambach in the quarterfinals of the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup, won WCC Player of the Year honors in her senior season at Portland. Torero head coach Ada Greenwood acknowledges that going up against a team as historically dominant as the Pilots is no easy task.

“Obviously, the university is a soccer school,” Greenwood said. “They build everything around their girls’ soccer program, more than they do their own basketball program. Its a soccer culture. They regularly get 4,000 to 5,000 people at their games, and it’s a great atmosphere. It’s a special environment to play in.”

Stretching back to 1910, the school’s soccer team is one of the oldest collegiate programs in the country. Then-head coach Clive Charles took hold of both the men’s team and the women’s team in 1989. Charles would leave the school in 2002, but not before compiling an overall record of 438-144-44 and watching his teams make 20 NCAA Tournament entries and seven NCAA Final Four appearances.

“I think Clive has been an amazing person for the game, men’s or women’s,” Greenwood said. “He’s done so much for the game. The reason that Portland soccer is so strong has everything to do with him. They have a very special environment and program because of him. He’s a great guy, very down to earth. I only got to coach against him for four or five years. But he was a very special person. I was an assistant coach at the time, and I learned a lot from watching him and how he treated his players. The experience was a good learning tool for me.”

When asked how Charles impacted him as a coach, Greenwood was quick to praise his reverence for the game.

“I think the thing with Clive was respect every play, respect every moment, respect every opportunity, I don’t think he ever took anything for granted. Every practice and every game is a challenge to help your team get better. He was that kind of person. He was very humble, never thought he was above the game. He reminded everyone by who he was that we as coaches have to respect every opportunity we have to be in this environment. You have to get in there and earn everything you do in life, every day,” Greenwood said.

The Toreros may have fallen short against the Pilots in six out of their last seven meetings, but its 2-1 victory just two years ago proves that the team is far from unbeatable. 2011 WCC Player of the Year Stephanie Ochs fired a shot from 20 yards out in the 36th minute to give the Toreros an early 1-0 lead. Junior midfielder Mariah Butera, then a freshman, received a cross from Ochs and scored for USD in the 58th minute of the match. The goal was one of two game-winning shots for Butera that season, the other against the Santa Clara University Broncos. The shots helped lift the Toreros to their first WCC championship in program history.

“We have a lot of new faces now compared to that year’s team, so we can’t put too much into that,” Greenwood said. “But we have the right mindset and focus right now. Once some of the kids who haven’t played there before settle in, we’ll have our chances, and I think we can go and get great results.”

Freshman Defender Jacqueline Altschuld will play on Portland’s Merlo Field for the first time in her career. The winning mentality of her team entering Oct. 24, however, is anything but new.
“We just have to go all out and end our season the right way.,” Altschuld said. “We know they bring a great environment to their games. We just want to prove them wrong and take it to them.”
The game is set to begin at 6:00 p.m.at Torero Stadium.