Nov. 10, 2012
PORTLAND, Ore. -- After 110 minutes of soccer resulted in a 2-2 tie, the No. 21 Portland Pilots picked up a 6-5 victory in PK's to advance past the Washington State Cougars in an NCAA First Round game played on a chilly Friday night at Merlo Field. With the Cougars needing to convert just one more PK to advance on three separate occasions, Portland junior goalkeeper Erin Dees came up with three season-saving saves.
Washington State's final attempt to continue the shootout sailed high of the crossbar, sending the Pilots to the second round.
"What a performance," said head coach Garrett Smith after his team had advanced. "To dig ourselves out of a hole time after time and to see the resilience of this team is just phenomenal. It's great to play a game like this at home because we were clearly energized by the crowd."
Portland (11-4-5) fell behind twice during regulation before tying the score both times. Down a goal in the in the 43rd minute, Portland junior Kendall Johnson was on the receiving end of a back-heel pass from Amanda Frisbie and ripped a low shot inside the far post from 15 yards out. It's the third goal this season for Johnson and it sent the two sides into the locker room deadlocked at 1-1.
Washington State (12-6-2) then reclaimed the lead with a goal from Nicole Setterlund in the 54th minute. The Pilots again responded, this time when Johnson drilled a service into the box from the left wing. Michelle Cruz somehow got there in time to put a one-touch finish into the back of the net, tying the score at 2-2. Cruz, a junior midfielder, has scored five goals during the last five games.
Regulation time and two 10-minute overtime stanzas would then end in a tie, despite both teams creating chances. Dees made a pair of diving saves in the second half, and WSU keeper Gurveen Clair came up with a clutch stop on a shot from Frisbie in a 1-v-1 opportunity in the 66th minute.
Then with the PK shootout tied 4-4 and Washington State standing over the ball with a chance to seal it, Dees came up with her first big-time stop. The Pilots would miss the ensuing PK, meaning Dees had to come through again, and she did.
Two makes and a miss later and Dees was once again called upon to preserve Portland's season, and again the Downers Grove, Ill., native denied the Cougs. Portland would then make its PK, and the Cougars' attempt was high, sparking a wild celebration on the Merlo Field pitch.
"What a night for Dees," noted Smith. "And give a lot of credit to Kendall and Taylor Brooke as well. They both covered a lot of ground."
The Cougars claimed a 19-10 advantage in shots and a 10-8 edge in shots on goal.
Dees, who earned All-West Coast Conference Honorable Mention, finished with eight saves. Clair countered with six.
"Washington State is a tough team," added Smith. "They showed why they're in the playoffs and they should definitely push for a Pac-12 title in the upcoming years."
The Pilots are making their 13th straight playoff appearance, and 20th overll, and noe have advanced pas the first round all 13 times. Portland won the national title in 2002 and 2005.
The Pilots will next face the winner between Michigan and Central Michigan, who are scheduled to play in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Saturday. The second round game will most likely take place sometime next week in State College, Pa., home of the No. 1 Penn State.