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UP gets Denver first in tourney

The path to the NCAA women's soccer national championship goes through defending champion Portland for at least one weekend.

The Portland Pilots (16-3-1) are set to play Denver at 1 p.m. Friday in the first round of the 2003 College Cup, which begins with 64 teams. If the Pilots win, they will play on Sunday against the winner of a first-round game pitting Washington and Nebraska, also Friday at Merlo Field.

The Pilots were seeded eighth and are in the same quarter of the bracket as No. 1 seed North Carolina and No. 9 Santa Clara. Portland and Santa Clara have won the last two national titles and met in the final last year.

'We're in the toughest bracket,' Portland coach Garrett Smith says. 'It's kind of the group of death. But that's how it goes in the playoffs.

'You have to be lucky to win, and we were the eighth seed last year, too, so maybe that will work out for us again.'

One of Portland's three losses came at Denver in the Pilots' second game of the season.

'We don't have specific expectations this year other than to defend our title,' sophomore Lindsey Huie says. 'Regardless of the group of players we have, that's going to be our goal.'

The Pilots are a decidedly different team than a year ago, when seniors dominated the roster. This season, freshmen predominate, and the Pilots are without forward Christine Sinclair, who is redshirting this season.

The team's inexperience mattered little during the regular season, though, as it won 12 straight games.

Huie hopes that the composition of three seniors, three juniors, four sophomores and 10 freshmen will be able to defend the Pilots' title.

'With older people, you have better knowledge of what's coming up and more of a sense of urgency,' Huie says. 'With this team, there isn't that sense of urgency. But that hasn't been a bad thing. It's just different.'