Nov. 9, 2006
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah --- The defending national champion and sixth-ranked Portland Pilots survived a tough first round draw in the 2006 Women's Soccer Championships with a 2-1 victory over No. 14 Brigham Young on Thursday at Ute Field.
With the win Portland will move on and face the fourth-seeded Utah Utes on Saturday at 4 p.m. (PST). The Utes earned a 3-2 come-from-behind double overtime victory over Idaho State in the early match on Sunday.
The Pilots (15-3-3) have now reached at least the second round of the NCAA playoffs in 12 of their 14 all-time appearances and are looking to become the first repeat champion since North Carolina in 2000. The Cougars (13-3-4), a perennial playoff contender, exits in the first round for the second consecutive year.
Portland freshman forward Kendra Chandhoke was the difference-maker for the Pilots, recording the initial goal of the game and then assisting on junior striker Rachael Rapinoe's game-winner in the second half. Chandhoke, one of the top recruits in the nation, now has 10 goals and seven assists on the season.
After a sluggish start, the Pilots rattled off nine consecutive unanswered shot attempts before Chandhoke found the back of the net on a brilliant strike in the 30th minute. Junior All-American defender Stephanie Lopez assisted on the score by making a run down the left sideline and serving a short cross to the near post. Chandhoke beat the defense to the ball and back-heeled her attempt inside the right post for a 1-0 lead.
The Pilots went into halftime with the 1-0 edge, but the Cougars quickly equalized 34 seconds after the break on a goal by Katie Larkin. BYU nearly took the lead in the 63rd minute on another Larkin attempt, but Portland senior goalkeeper Cori Alexander made a diving save.
Chandhoke set up Portland's go-ahead score in the 65th minute after finding space on the right side. Her first cross attempt was knocked down by BYU keeper Erika Woodberry, but Chandhoke gathered the loose ball and found Rapinoe unmarked at the top of the goal box. Rapinoe, who started the first 11 matches at outside back for the Pilots, finished for her fifth goal of the season.
A final surge by the Cougars resulted in four shots in the closing minutes, but the Pilot defense came up big. Alexander stopped a point blank shot from Larkin in the 88th minute, followed by sophomore substitute Katie Brown heading the rebound attempt off the Pilots goalline and sealing the victory.
"Our team in general was making big saves," Alexander said, when asked about her making crucial stops in the closing minutes. "We pride ourselves on defense and there was no way that last ball was getting into the net."
"Give BYU a lot of credit, especially their goalkeeper," Portland head coach Garrett Smith said, referring to Woodberry's six saves. "But give Cori Alexander a lot of credit as well, she was phenomenal."
Portland gained a 16-12 edge in shots, including and 8-5 advantage in shots on goal. Alexander made four saves for the Pilots.
"We should have finished better and we missed some key opportunities," Rapinoe said after the match. "But we hung in there and fought until the end."
"The big thing we have going for us right now is experience," Smith added. "Until someone beats us, we are still the defending national champions. We've been in a lot of close games this year and we're figuring out how to win them."