By Amanda Branam
Claire C. Laurence/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Senior midfielder Mallory Miller (5) and the No. 22 Wildcats cruise into Portland tonight to face the No. 3 Pilots. Miller, with six goals this season, poses the largest offensive threat to an undefeated Portland team that has only allowed two goals so far this year. The Wildcats will return to Murphey Stadium on Sunday night to host UC-Santa Barbara.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, September 23, 2005
If there was a game that could measure how far the Arizona soccer program has come in recent years, tonight's game might be it.
The No. 22 Wildcats (4-1-2) travel to Oregon to take on No. 3 Portland (8-0), a program almost as synonymous with women's college soccer as North Carolina. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
Since 1992, the Pilots have made seven trips to the Final Four, won four West Coast Conference titles and won one national title, in 2002.
It's the first time the two programs have met, but for many of the Wildcat players, Portland has a history and a program they are familiar with.
"That's what's ironic about it, especially for us seniors, and we've talked about it, too. This was a program that we looked up to and players that we watched growing up," said senior forward Kelly Nelson.
The Pilots have turned out some of the top players to ever play for the U.S. women's national team, including Tiffany Milbrett, who has made the most international appearances in the squad's history, and Shannon MacMillian, a former national player of the year.
"Having the opportunity to play the University of Portland is great," said Arizona head coach Dan Tobias. "They not only have a good team this year, they've had a great program for as long as I can remember."
No. 22 Arizona (4-1-2) at No. 3 Portland (8-0)
Today, 7 p.m.
UC-Santa Barbara (5-3) at No. 22 Arizona
Sunday, 7 p.m.
The program went through some tough changes two years ago when long-time head coach Clive Charles passed away from prostate cancer.
Charles was the man responsible for bringing both Portland teams to soccer prominence. Garrett Smith is now in his third year at the helm of the women's program.
Despite the changes, the Pilots still have some of the top players in the country, and none more important or dangerous than senior forward Christine Sinclair, who leads the nation with 16 goals in eight games this season.
She was the national player of the year as a sophomore in 2002 and redshirted in 2003 to devote time to the Canadian national team for that summer's World Cup.
Beating Portland should be a daunting task for Arizona, as the Pilots have already defeated four top-25 teams in 2005.
"We're confident in the team that we have here," said Wildcats co-captain Nelson. "We're confident that we can come out and play with them and hang with them the whole game and that they can play with us. You know, we're also a good team and a team to beat."
Nelson said it will be important for the Wildcats to play better than they did last weekend in the team's Four Points University Plaza Arizona Soccer Classic, where they scored two goals in two games, winning 1-0 over Utah and forging a 1-1, double-overtime tie with New Mexico.
The Wildcats return to Tucson Sunday to play UC-Santa Barbara at 7 p.m.
The Gauchos (5-3) return seven players from last season's squad, which finished first in the Big West Conference but did not qualify for the NCAA College Cup.
Freshman forward-midfielder Genelle Ives leads Santa Barbara in points with three goals and five assists, both team highs.