The Portland Pilots breezed through their first two quizzes in defense of their NCAA women's soccer title. Now they get a major test in the form of Santa Clara.
The Pilots and Broncos will collide at 1 p.m. Sunday at Merlo Field.
'I want to play Santa Clara,' Portland junior Kristen Moore says. 'It's a great rivalry, and it's always a great game.'
The last two national titles have gone to Portland (2002) and Santa Clara (2001). UP beat the Broncos in last year's final.
Santa Clara edged visiting Portland 2-1 in overtime on Nov. 2.
The winner of Sunday's third-round game probably will travel to No. 1 North Carolina to play for a spot in the Final Four.
'When the bracket first came out, I was shocked by the teams we had to play,' UP junior Kristen Rogers says. 'But then I figured, what's wrong with that? If you're going to win, you want to say you beat the best, so we might as well play them early.'
Portland opened the playoffs last week with two wins at home, 1-0 over Denver and 4-1 over Nebraska. The Pilots got goals from four players, including sophomore Lindsey Huie, who had the game-winner Friday against Denver.
Portland started five freshmen Sunday against Nebraska, and coach Garrett Smith says the Pilots are more mature than they were when they played Santa Clara earlier this month.
'Every time we step on the field, we grow as a team,' Smith says. 'That (Santa Clara) game was really our first test of the season, and we played really well, so I'm sure we'll be ready for them.'