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Brooke could be Pilots next breakout star

by: PHOTO COURTESY OF / UNIVERSITY OF PORTLAND West Linn graduate Taylor Brooke figures to be one of the bigger contributers to the University of Portland’s women’s soccer team this year. The Pilots have been highlighted in recent weeks with four of their alumni competing in the Women’s World Cup.

Even if the United States Women's World Cup soccer team doesn't go on to win its first championship since 1999, the tournament should already be considered a huge success for women's soccer in general.

A huge boost in coverage, some thrilling finishes and all-around tremendous soccer have raised the country's perception of the sport to heights it hasn't seen in more than a decade.

And playing a major role in this resurgence are four Portland Pilots.

Most notably, Portland standout Megan Rapinoe became somewhat of a household name when her impeccably placed cross in the final seconds of the United States' quarterfinal game against Brazil found the head of Abby Wambach for a game-tying score that ultimately propelled the team into the semifinals.

Stephanie Cox has also made important contributions to the United States team while Sophie Schmidt and Christine Sinclair represented Canada's national team in the tournament.

West Linn graduate Taylor Brooke has been catching as much of the tournament as she can in the middle of taking summer school classes at Portland and training for the upcoming soccer season.

Her ultimate dream for her soccer career would be to one day make a national team like some of her predecessors.

"I would love that more than anything," Brooke said.

But right now she is focused on the task at hand which is to help lead the Pilots to another shot at a national title.

Brooke came into her own last fall during her sophomore season. The midfielder started 19 games, notching four goals and five assists.

The Pilots graduated a large and talented senior class but there is plenty of optimism this summer.

"The expectations are always high with this team. It's always the goal to win a national championship. We lost a lot of leaders but it's not anything we can't overcome. We have four new freshmen this year who are really exciting and they're fitting in really well," Brooke said.

As an upperclassman, Brooke will be called upon for her considerable skills on the field this year but also for her leadership abilities.

With the team's preseason opener a little more than a month away against Florida St., Brooke isn't sure where the team will need her most this year.

She has primarily been a midfielder but could switch to the back line this fall.

"I'll do my best no matter where I play on the field," Brooke said.

Brooke is one of the team's quickest players and is most dangerous when she can make runs down the sideline.

"I've always been an assist player. I prefer to get it and cross the ball in. Five assists last year wasn't as productive as I'd like to be so I'm hoping to improve on that," Brooke said.

While the team has experienced a fair amount of turnover, Brooke says that the chemistry of this year's squad might be its biggest strength.

"We have a smaller team this year in terms of numbers and it's very close and tight knit," Brooke said.

She also says that the team will probably be possession oriented this year which should fit with the squad's personnel.

Portland figures to be a top-10 caliber squad again this season, continuing its strong tradition. Brooke is focused on her collegiate career but hasn't ruled out continuing her soccer career after graduating.

She played alongside Schmidt at Portland and has enjoyed the excitement that her fellow Pilots have provided this year.

"There definitely are a lot of players that are really fun to watch," Brooke said.

She is also studying finance at Portland and says that the university has been the perfect fit for her.

"It's been as good as I could have imagined. It has a great business school and is close enough for my parents to see all of my home games. I've made amazing friends here and couldn't ask for a better school or a better team," Brooke said.