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No. 1 Pilots crash hopes of soccer's postseason

By Amanda Branam
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, November 21, 2005
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Portland, Ore. - Whoever said that any team can beat any other team on any given day probably has not watched the 2005 edition of the Portland women's soccer team.

Bolstered by a raucous sold-out crowd of 4,892 at Merlo Field, the undefeated No. 1 Pilots overwhelmed Arizona in every phase of the game Friday night, winning 4-0.

"Not to be master of the obvious, but that's a very, very good team," said Arizona head coach Dan Tobias. "As a soccer coach at the Division I level for 13 years, that certainly has to be, in my opinion, one of the best teams I've had the honor of competing against."

Were it not for eight saves by Wildcat sophomore goalkeeper McCall Smith and two shot attempts that deflected off the cross bar, Arizona's loss could have been worse.

The Wildcats were overtaken by Portland's speed, skill and experience. The Pilots have seven players, five of whom play midfield or forward, who have taken the field with their respective national teams in some capacity.

"You can't give them a yard of space. I think we played tight but we needed to play tighter," Smith said. "We did our very best, I think, and left it all out on the field."

In what Smith said she saw as the defense's best effort Friday, Arizona managed what no other team in the country had done this season.

The Wildcats held Pilots senior forward Christine Sinclair, arguably the best player in women's collegiate soccer and one of the best in the world, without a goal or an assist in a game for the first time in 2005.

When Arizona played Portland on Sept. 23, Sinclair took just two shots but converted both for goals.

Friday, Sinclair took nine of the Pilots' 29 shots, with no scores to show for the attempts.

"When Christine isn't scoring goals, we've got a bunch here that can score a bunch of goals for us," said Portland head coach Garrett Smith.

Smith got two goals and an assist from freshmen midfielder Megan Rapinoe, a goal from senior midfielder Lindsey Huie and a goal from junior forward Elsa Hume.

When asked how many goals she would score out of nine shots on a normal night, Sinclair said with a smile, "Maybe like eight. ... Sometimes, you have those games where you have so many chances, but you just can't buy a goal."

Arizona didn't have many chances to work with on Friday, managing just three shots, though all of them were on goal.

Senior midfielder-forward Mallory Miller had the first and most dangerous shot of the game for either team, a high, hard attempt from the top of the box in the 12th minute.

Despite the lack of quality scoring chances for anyone in a Wildcat uniform, Tobias said he liked his team's play in the second half.

"I thought we played very well, but had nothing to show for it in terms of the score," he said.

Tobias also reflected on his team's postseason play this year. "These are all firsts," he said. "Our first time winning a tournament game, our first Sweet 16 appearance - we're hoping it's the beginning of a long tradition of success."

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