After finishing up the out of conference schedule with a record of 6-1-1, the 14th ranked Portland women’s Soccer team will open up the conference slate against conference newcomer Pacific on Saturday. Before the Pilot’s head down to Stockton, five time WCC Coach of the Year Garrett Smith answered a few questions for West Coast Convo about his young team, their goals heading into conference schedule, and even gives a shout out to the Portland faithful.
You’re just about at the half point of the season. What has been the biggest pleasant surprise thus far?
The biggest surprise has been the tremendous involvement of the freshmen this year. With 4-5 freshmen regularly starting and being huge contributors to our 8-1-1 record heading into conference play is amazing.
It seems like this team has been in every scenario (playing with the lead, playing from behind, scoring late, or giving up a late goal) what has the team learned about themselves through this process?
With the infusion of freshmen what you miss sometimes is consistency, but it’s a learning point each game going through the different scenarios throughout a season. With each game comes a greater understanding of the collegiate game. As a staff we are all just grateful that we have a tremendous senior class to help guide them on and off the field to help speed up the learning curve each week. That experience prevents us from continuously repeating the same mistakes over and over again.
Along the same lines, with such a young team it’s difficult sometimes to have an identity in terms of style of play as a team early on in a season, At this point in the season has an identity started to form, has there always been an identity to this group, or is still a work in process? If so what would you say that identity is?
The style or intent of Portland Soccer remains the same each year: to play an attacking, possession style of soccer while limiting our opponent’s opportunities. Whether we can obtain a level of sophistication to play successfully against the best teams in the country remains to be established each and every year. Like all collegiate sports, your team changes drastically from year to year. We are always trying to progress each day during a condensed collegiate season. The time is so limited with the players and is secondary to the academic load of a collegiate student-athlete that you must maximize your moments with them for coaching and education. Each and every player has to learn the concepts and ideas necessary to establish the success of the program.
With conference games about to start, how much does winning the always strong WCC mean to the team?
Winning the WCC is always a goal within a goal for us. As we have learned over the years with our prior successes, each game has its importance en route to earning a good seed and then taking advantage by making an extended run in the playoffs. To be successful in the playoffs you must be at home and stay healthy. Each game lost during the season puts you on the road in the playoffs for one more round. With the parity today in collegiate Division I women’s soccer, almost no one can afford to be on the road in the playoffs and ensure success.
So the importance of conference games is like all the others during a successful season, it allows us to gain a home field advantage for the playoffs. But during a challenging year, winning the conference can put you in the playoffs as a last resort, which is why the end of the season league games always brings such a challenge for everyone. It does prepare you for the “must win” attitude of the playoffs.
What are the main goals for the remainder of the season?
The goals for the remainder of the season are simple: continue to progress each and every day, while preparing for our future by working hard and enjoying the game together. We want to stay focused on the next game at hand and try to enhance the style of Portland Soccer while securing our place in this year’s playoffs.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
The support by the student body this year has been first class. From the packed student section at Merlo Field, to the 30-70 students traveling to all road games this season has been a truly remarkable commitment by the group of students that support our women’s soccer program. From the dorms of Villa, Christie, and Schoenfeldt Halls, their support has been greatly appreciated by our team this season and rest assured they will not be disappointed as we close out the year.