Emilee Cincotta gave it everything she had for the Tigard soccer and hoop teams

by: DAN BROOD - TERRIFIC TIGER -- Emilee Cincotta came up big for the Tigard girls soccer and basketball teams.TIGARD — A loose ball.

Be it on the pitch, or on the hardwood, it didn’t matter.

Where ever it was, it likely put a sparkle in Emilee Cincotta’s eyes, and a smile on her face.

Because — she knew — that loose ball was going to be hers.

No matter if she had to sprint past a handful of defenders, or dive with reckless abandon onto the court, she was going to do whatever it took to get that ball.

“It brings out all of my aggression and competitiveness,” Cincotta said with a smile. “It can get so intense, but I love it.”

That likely goes without question.

Cincotta, who graduated from Tigard High School earlier this month, seemed to show her enthusiasm, motivation, determination and talent over and over again, shinning for the Tiger girls soccer and basketball teams.

“She’s just driven,” Tigard girls soccer coach Paul Slover said of Cincotta. “And whenever we needed something to happen, it always seemed to be Emilee, or Emilee and someone else.”

“She’s always 100-percent focused and she always goes at 100 percent,” Tigard girls basketball coach Steve Naylor said. “She has no fear. Some plays, she’s a one-person wrecking crew out there.”

And that one-person wrecking crew had quite the senior year at Tigard.

She helped both her Tiger squads win Pacific Conference championships this past school year. She also earned Class 6A All-State honors in each sports.

Now, Cincotta has another honor, as she has been selected as The Times’ Athlete of the Year from Tigard High School. The honor goes to the top senior-class athlete, as seen by The Times, at the school for the 2013-2014 school year.

“I have a ton of memories here,” Cincotta said as she sat near the soccer field at Tigard High School. “Especially on this field. It’s a field that will always be close to my heart. I have a lot of good memories and learned some lessons there. It’s been a special four years. These opportunities are precious, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

by: DAN BROOD - SOCCER STAR -- Emilee Cincotta earned first-team all-state honors as she helped lead the Tigers to the Pacific Conference championship.Soccer from the start

Cincotta earned a spot on the Tigard girls soccer team’s varsity roster as a freshman, and she’s been there ever since.

But, one of Cincotta’s most special soccer memories came her freshman year, when the Tigers were hosting Sunset in a second-round state playoff match.

That contest went to a penalty-kick shootout. Cincotta says that the seniors on the team volunteered to take the five penalty kicks.

“Then I said ‘can I be the sixth one?’” Cincotta said, meaning that she would take the shot if the penalty-kick shootout went to sudden death following the five rounds. “I never thought I’d have to do it.”

But, of course, she did. And, Cincotta came through, converting her shot to help Tigard get a 2-1 win (4-3 in penalty kicks).

“I was so nervous,” she said. “I was just a little freshman, but I made it. It was one of my best experiences.”

The experiences. They seem to mean a lot to Cincotta.

“Everything has been a learning experience,” she said. “I learned so much from the girls who were seniors when I started. They were such a good influence. I wanted to pay that back.”

So, Cincotta and the other seniors on this year’s Tigard team — Liz Beth Flores, Megan Franz, Erin Graham and Kyla Smart, who also was a varsity player all four years — were looking to make the 2013 season special.

It was.

With Cincotta playing in the midfield, the Tigers won the Pacific Conference championship with a 6-0-1 league mark while also going 13-1-2 on the season, which ended with a 1-0 loss to Westview in a state playoff second-round match.

“It was a great senior year,” Cincotta said. “We didn’t want it to end in the second round, but it is what it is. I’m hoping the younger girls learned from us, and they can keep it going.”

“I think she was a big reason why the team won the league title last year,” Slover said of Cincotta. “She’s also a big reason why the team and program have been successful. It’s a team sport, and you need leadership, and it makes it better when your leaders are hard workers. The girls knew they could always count on her.”

Cincotta earned both first-team All-Pacific Conference and first-team Class 6A All-State accolades following her senior soccer season at Tigard.

by: DAN BROOD - FLOOR BURNS -- It wasn't unusual to see Emilee Cincotta diving for a lose ball, like she did here against South Medford at the 2013 state tournament.On to basketball

While many players who excel at soccer play the sport all year, Cincotta wasn’t about to give up basketball. Not yet, at least.

“I love both sports,” she said.

And maybe the thing she loves most about basketball is defense.

Now, Cincotta, a 5-foot-8 guard, certainly can shine at the offensive end, with her ability to drive hard to the hoop in addition to being able to regularly sink three-pointers. But it’s on the defensive end where she may do her most damage.

“I love playing defense,” she said with a smile.

And, it’s no secret, she was pretty darn good at it, especially when she teamed up on the defensive end with fellow senior guard Lexi Carter — her partner in crime.

“The amount of tips they had, with Emilee tipping the ball to Lexi or the other way around, that led to layins was just amazing,” Naylor said.

“I love playing with Lexi,” Cincotta said. “We just know how each other works.”

With Cincotta and the Clemson-bound Carter helping lead the way, Tigard reached the Class 6A state tournament each of the past two years.

“I’ll always remember going to the Rose Garden our junior year,” Cincotta said. “That was a great experience.”

That year, Tigard opened the tourney by upsetting Clackamas 34-30 in a quarterfinal contest.

“That was nice,” Cincotta said. “Lexi and I have played those Clackamas girls since we were little.”

In the semifinals, Tigard threw quite a scare into No. 2-ranked South Medford before falling 35-31. Cincotta had 13 points, three assists and five steals in that game.

“We never gave more on the court,” Cincotta said of that game. “It was a tough loss, but we can’t be mad with how we played.”

“The South Medford coach called me after that game and said ‘wow, no one has any idea how tough you guys are,’” Naylor said.

This year, Tigard wasn’t going to be denied a return trip to the state tournament. The Tigers got that bid by beating Jesuit 57-36 in a Class 6A state playoff game. With her senior season on the line, Cincotta had 12 points, all coming in the second half, eight steals, four assists and three rebounds in that victory.

“That was one of our best games of the season,” Cincotta said. “Our goal was to get back to the tournament, and we did it.”

The Tigers fell to Oregon City and St. Mary’s at the state tournament, but Cincotta capped off her senior year with more honors. She earned first-team All-Pacific Conference accolades while sharing the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year honor. She also was an honorable mention all-state pick.

It sounds like none of that came as a surprise to Naylor.

“She’s been awesome to coach,” he said. “She’s a great competitor and just wants to win. It’s hard to describe her unwillingness to quit. To play 32 minutes at the pace she does and still be effective is amazing.”

by: DAN BROOD - JUGGLING ACT -- Emilee Cincotta, a 2014 Tigard High School graduate, was able to play big roles for both the Tiger girls soccer team and the girls basketball squad. The rival Wolves

Cincotta always seemed to step up in big games, and that certainly seemed to be true when Tigard took on rival Tualatin — especially on the soccer field.

“Those games were special,” said Cincotta, who scored Tigard’s goal in the teams’ 1-1 tie this season. “I love playing against Tualatin. Everyone is super pumped up for those games. We have so much respect for them.”

The feeling is mutual.

“She is such a good team player,” Tualatin’s Jill Farley, the Class 6A girls soccer Player of the Year, said of Cincotta, who has been her club soccer teammate. “She’ll do anything to help her team. She’s so easy to play with and, when you play against her, you know you have to go hard. She motivates me.”

A lot of support

Cincotta is quick to say that she couldn’t have accomplished what she has without the support of her parents, Dan and Lisa Cincotta.

“They’ve supported me through everything,” she said. “They’ve been through it all. They’re my biggest supporters and my dad has been like another coach.”

Emilee’s older brother Matt, a former Tigard High football and baseball standout, is also part of that family support system.

“Well, I have to try and live up to that Cincotta legacy,” she said with a laugh. “I could always go talk to him. He’s been through it all. I couldn’t have done this without my mom, dad and brother. They gave me the opportunity to shine.”

And Cincotta has had plenty of other support.

“I just want to really thank all of my coaches here at Tigard,” she said. “They’ve all been great and they’ve helped me so much.”

The Cornhusker state

Cincotta will continue her scholastic soccer career this upcoming fall at the University of Nebraska.

“I loved it there,” Cincotta said. “The atmosphere there is super nice. I know I’m going to have to work hard and get better every day. I’m excited for the next chapter.”

And Slover predicts that Cincotta will do well in that next chapter.

“I think she’ll be successful at the next level,” he said. “You either have it, or you don’t, and she has it. She’s absolutely coachable and she still has a lot of upside.”

And, for the first time, Cincotta will have the chance to focus on one sport.

“It’s hard for me to give up basketball,” she said.

But her enthusiasm is evident as she talks about her soccer future.

“This is somewhere I want to go,” Cincotta said. “I know it’s going to be hard, but I’m ready for the challenge.”

And, if her time at Tigard is any indication, Cincotta will take that challenge on with everything she’s got.

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