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Cori Bianchini, a four-year starter at Hillsboro High, is making the most of her first year at Portland State

Growing up in Hillsboro, Portland State midfielder Cori Bianchini was always a tomboy. Though she was talented as both a gymnast and a soccer player, Bianchini found herself gravitating toward the more physical sport of soccer.by: PHOTO BY LARRY LAWSON - Portland State freshman midfielder Cori Bianchini splits Oregon State defenders Jessica Niewoehner (8) and Erin Uchacz (4) during the teams non-conference match on Aug. 24.

“I didn’t like the whole girly-girly dressing up thing,” Bianchini says. “In school I had friends that were guys and playing with them was always fun. I always wanted to play soccer with all the boys and I was just more into the more aggressive sport rather than gymnastics.

“My sister ended up doing gymnastics. She took that side and I took the gymnastics side.”

Bianchini continued doing gymnastics until she got into middle school. She participated in all of the events and while she finally discovered that it was not her passion, being a gymnast gave her skills that she would later take onto the pitch.

“I believe that helped a lot,” Bianchini says. “It brought in some different aspects that have helped a lot like flexibility and balance. It definitely helped with soccer.”

How good Bianchini could have been in gymnastics will remain unknown. Her talent on the pitch was crystal clear, though.

Bianchini played on Glencoe’s varsity team all four years. As a freshman she was honorable mention all-league. As a sophomore she was first team all-league and was awarded the Aerie’s Player of the Week once. by: PHOTO BY LARRY LAWSON - Portland State freshman midfielder Cori Bianchini dribbles the ball upfield against pressure from Montana defender Alyssa Nystrom  during a Big Sky Conference match on Sept. 28 at Hillsboro Stadium. Bianchini, a Hillsboro High School graduate, has already started 12 games and scored two goals in her first season with the Portland State womens soccer program.

Bianchini’s junior season, Glencoe moved up from Class 5A to 6A. That season she was named second team all-league. Her senior season Bianchini was first team all-league and was an honorable mention selection on the Class 6A all-state team.

“I loved it,” Bianchini says of playing soccer at Glencoe. “Coming in my freshman year, it was fun to play and be a huge asset on the team. Every year I improved and watched the entire team improve. Being a team leader on the field was very cool.”

After her prep career ended, Bianchini says that she had several options to go on and play collegiate soccer. All of those offers were at schools outside of the Pacific Northwest, though.

“I had many options and they were all mostly on the east coast or schools very far away,” Bianchini says. “I just couldn’t see myself out of Portland. I love Portland. It’s my favorite place to call home. I’m glad that I’m close to my family and it feels good to know that I can always call my mom and know that she’s a 20-minute drive away.”

At Portland State, Bianchini has somewhat lost her tomboy persona.

“People look at me as a girly-girl now, which is kind of weird,” Bianchini says. “Everyone would say that I’m the most feminine one on the team now, which I don’t know if it’s a good thing or not.”

A new persona aside, Bianchini has been playing well this season as a true freshman, appearing in 16 matches with 12 starts.

“When I came in, I really didn’t know what to expect,” Bianchini says. “I had to come in and see where I stood. I came into practice and worked my hardest to try to see if I could get ready and it paid off. I’ve been happy with my performance as a freshman so far.”

The highlight of Bianchini’s season so far was scoring her first career goal against Boise State. She describes the play like this:

“It was a tie game against Boise State. I was a little mad that I was coming off the field and then my coach put me back on. Then, within a couple minutes I took on two or three players and shot a ball at the far post and it went in. I was really happy that it went in and to make a difference that quick. That was pretty cool. Scoring my first goal was my biggest highlight.”

While Bianchini, who has two goals on the season, looks at creating goals for her teammates as the strength of her game, she wants to continue to improve her ability to score.

“I’ve had a lot of chances to score goals and I wish I could’ve taken more advantage of those,” Bianchini says.

Making the adjustment to collegiate soccer after four years as a prep has been challenging for Bianchini. The pace is more grueling and the physical play is far superior to what it once was.

“(The speed of the matches) was a huge difference,” Bianchini says. “The pace is a lot faster. I was always known to be one of the faster players on the field. But, now I’m at an average pace. Everyone is fast once you get to college. It’s hard to match that and be faster than everyone.”

Even more challenging for Bianchini is trying to make sure that she is not pushed around on the pitch.

“In college you’re playing with a lot older players,” Bianchini says. “Everyone is way more aggressive, way tougher, way bigger. It’s hard to develop strength to be able to push people off you. Especially because the league that we play in (The Big Sky) is extremely aggressive. That’s been one of my biggest difficulties.”

Bianchini is working on keeping up with the physicality of the Big Sky Conference both during workouts with Portland State and on her own.

“As a team we do lifting twice a week,” Bianchini says. “But, I will sometimes train on my own because I know that I need to improve on that so I’ll go to the Rec at Portland State and lift on my own.”

Getting into the Portland State Rec Center has been made easier for Bianchini because she is living in the PSU dorms. While adjusting to the level of play in college has been challenging, adjusting to a college curriculum has been equally demanding. As on the pitch, though, Bianchini has been able to handle the change.

“It’s been going really well,” Bianchini says, of school. “It was a tough switch into the whole college athlete ways. It’s a lot different. You go into a class and you have to take in a bunch of info and then you spend the rest of the hours not in class studying and figuring it out and working hard to get good grades. It’s a lot harder.

“But, so far I’m getting used to it and it’s been really good.”

Bianchini is a Health and Sciences major. Her dream is to one day become a nurse.

“I’m a huge people person,” Bianchini says. “I love helping people and I just like the environment of being in a hospital and making people feel better. That’s just the kind of person I am. It’s always been my dream.”

Bianchini is still only a freshman. But, over her four years at Portland State she has ambitious goals both on the pitch and in the classroom.

“My goals soccer related would be to win the Big Sky and get a ring,” Bianchini says. “That would be awesome. And then I want to maintain good grades and get to the level where I need to be to go to nursing school and become a nurse. That’s really my goal.”

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