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PORTLAND, Ore. — The Portland State women's soccer team faces a couple of stiff road tests as it opens its 2015 season away from home this weekend.
The Vikings face off against one of their toughest opponents of the season in their 2015 opener, as they play at Arizona State in Tempe, Ariz., at 7 p.m. (PT) Friday. The team will then head to Northridge, Calif., for a road match at Cal State Northridge at 1 p.m. (PT) Sunday.
This weekends matches will mark the debut of what should be a youthful for Portland State. The Vikings have 10 true freshmen on the team this season, while 18 of the team's 26 players are freshmen or sophomores.
That youth will be tested early as the Vikings face off against a deep Sun Devils team that made the second round of the NCAA tournament last season. The Sun Devils lost only one starter from that team, and returned 21 of their 26 letterwinners. Additionally, the Vikings' young defense will be in for a particularly tough challenge against the Sun Devils, as two of the Sun Devils' returners – senior forward Cali Farquharson and sophomore midfielder/forward Aly Moon – combined for 24 goals scored last season, 14 of which came from Farquharson, who made the 2014 All-Pac-12 first team. Farquharson and Moon won't be alone in the Sun Devils attack, however, as ASU returned its top 11 scorers overall from last season.
The Vikings' match against the Sun Devils also offers a unique coaching matchup, as PSU head coach Laura Schott faces off against her old collegiate coach in ASU head coach Kevin Boyd for the first time. Schott played for Boyd from 1999-2002 at the University of California, where she set the school record with 56 career goals scored and was a four-time All-Pac-10 selection. Boyd coached at Cal until 2006, before moving to Arizona State ahead of the 2007 season.
Sunday's match, meanwhile, offers a different challenge as Cal State Northridge returns eight starters off their 2014 team that qualified for the Big West Conference tournament for the fifth time in the past six seasons. The Matadors will also be young like the Vikings, however, as 16 of the team's 33 players are new to the team this year. The Matadors also played two goalkeepers last season, and return both in junior Jovani McCaskill and senior Cynthia Tafoya. Tafoya started the team's first eight matches last season, but McCaskill took over mid-year and started the team's final 12 matches.
Live video of the Vikings' match against Arizona State will be streamed online, here.
Live stats will be available for both of the Vikings' matches this weekend. Both links can be found on the Vikings' women's soccer schedule page, here.
SCOUTING ARIZONA STATE:
The Arizona State Sun Devils pose a stiff test for the Vikings in their season opener. The Sun Devils advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament last season, after eliminating Big Sky tournament champion Northern Arizona with a 4-2 win in the first round. The vast majority of that team is back this season, too, as the Sun Devils return 12 players who started at least 10 matches last season, as well as 21 of their 26 letterwinners from a year ago. Additionally, the Sun Devils return their top 11 scorers from last season, including senior forward Cali Farquharson, who was named an All-Pac-12 first-team selection after leading ASU and ranking second in the Pac-12 with 14 goals scored. Sophomore midfielder/forward Aly Moon also scored 10 goals for the Sun Devils last season, and led the team with six assists. The Sun Devils should also offer a stout defense again this season, as they return a couple of key players off last year's team that ranked third in the Pac-12 in goals against average in conference matches. Redshirt senior goalkeeper Chandler Morris returns after ranking second in the Pac-12 in save percentage (.859) in conference matches, as well as third in conference goals against average (0.86). Senior defender McKenzie Berryhill also returns to the team after earning All-Pac-12 first-team honors last season, when she and Farquharson also made the NSCAA All-Region first team.
COACH SCHOTT FACES HER OLD COLLEGIATE COACH:
Sunday's match against the Sun Devils will mark the first matchup between PSU head coach Laura Schott and her former college coach, ASU's Kevin Boyd. Schott played for Boyd at the University of California from 1999-2002, but has never faced Boyd as a fellow coach. Boyd coached at Cal through 2006, before he moved to Arizona State in 2007, a year before Schott took over the Viking program ahead of the 2008 season. Sunday's match will also be the first-ever meeting between the Vikings and Sun Devils.
ALL-TIME RECORD VERSUS PAC-12 OPPONENTS:
The Vikings recorded their first win over a Pac-12 opponent in five years when the team beat Oregon 1-0 on a golden goal in the first overtime period. The Vikings hadn't beaten a Pac-12 team since Aug. 21, 2009, before then, when they beat Oregon State, 1-0. Overall, the Vikings have gone 8-33-2 all-time against Pac-12 opponents, but all eight of those wins have been over either Oregon or Oregon State.
SCOUTING CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE:
The Cal State Northridge Matadors go into the 2015 season facing a similar situation to the Vikings in that 16 of the team's 33 players are newcomers this season. Consequently, the Matadors will have to mesh their new players in with their old quickly, but also have the luxury of some recent success to draw from. The Matadors qualified for the Big West Conference tournament for the fifth time in the past six seasons in 2014, and return eight starters from their 2014 team. The Matadors also return both of their goalkeepers from last season, when the team ranked second in the Big West with a 1.01 goals against average. Junior Jovani McCaskill and senior Cynthia Tafoya started all 20 of the Matadors' matches last season, with Tafoya starting the first eight while McCaskill started the final 12. McCaskill led the Big West with an individual goals against average of 0.80, and was an All-Big West honorable mention. Senior midfielder Taylor Hobson also returns for the Matadors after earning All-Big West first-team honors last season, while sophomore forward Cynthia Sanchez returns after making the All-Big West freshman team. Sanchez and senior midfielder/forward Lyndsey Preston tied for the team lead in goals scored last season, while Preston was named an All-Big West honorable mention. The Matadors will open their season Friday at Pepperdine, before hosting the Vikings Sunday.
ALL-TIME SERIES VERSUS CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE:
The Vikings are just 1-3-0 all-time against Cal State Northridge, but have not faced the Matadors since Cal State Northridge left the Big Sky Conference following the 2000-01 school year. The Vikings played the Matadors as a conference opponent for four straight years from 1997-2000. The Vikings won the first match between the teams, 3-2 in overtime in 1997, but then lost the next three before the series ended in 2000.
VIKINGS VERSUS THE BIG WEST:
The Vikings' match against the Matadors will be the first of four straight matches Portland State will play against Big West Conference opponents in the 2015 non-conference schedule. After the Vikings play the Matadors, the team will follow with home matches against the Big West's UC Davis and Hawaii, before going on the road to Long Beach State. Overall, the Vikings are 7-10-2 all-time against current Big West opponents, including a 1-3-0 mark against Cal State Northridge.
Despite the youth on the defensive side of the field, the Vikings still return a lot of talent on the offensive side of the ball, led by last year's co-leaders in points in senior forward Tamia Hasan and senior midfielder/forward Cori Bianchini. Hasan led the Vikings with four goals scored last season, while Bianchini led the Big Sky with five assists in conference play and made her second straight All-Big Sky first team. Besides them, senior Emma Cooney, junior Bianca Munoz and sophomore Katie Forsee return after starting most of last season at their respective positions. Munoz was an All-Big Sky second-team selection last season, when she started the final 11 matches of the season and ranked tied for second on the team with two assists. Outside of last year's starters, redshirt senior goalkeeper Angela Haluska, redshirt junior midfielder Whitney Hilde, junior midfielder Aurora Bodenhamer, sophomore forward Zoe Vincini, junior midfielder Nikia Evans, sophomore midfielder Dallas Malone, sophomore forward Rachel Michieli and sophomore midfielder Lauren Owens return after playing last season, while redshirt freshman goalkeeper Abbie Faingold and redshirt sophomore defenders Breanne Chilton-Eddy and Kristin Moyer return after sitting out last season.
The Vikings brought in 10 freshmen with their 2015 recruiting class, including five defenders who will help bolster the team's young defense. Head coach Laura Schott singled out Rachel Ross and Maxine Nagramada as two defenders who could contribute right away, while Laura Gougeon, Zoe Ramer and Dallin Esmond should all also factor into the Vikings' lineup. Outside of the team's new defenders, Ashton Blanksma gives the Vikings a third option at goalkeeper, while Megan Myers, Morgan Matthews, Kylie Long and Krystal de Ramos will all factor into the Vikings' attack.
A LOADED MIDFIELD:
The Vikings enter the 2015 season with a loaded crop of midfielders to choose from for a starting lineup. Senior midfielder/forward Cori Bianchini should lead the group, as she led the Big Sky with five assists in conference play last season. Besides her, senior Emma Cooney, junior Bianca Munoz and sophomore Katie Forsee all also return after starting the majority of the team's matches last season in the midfield. Additionally, redshirt junior Whitney Hilde made three starts in the midfield for the Vikings last season and was part of the Vikings' rotation all season.
BIG SKY PRESEASON POLL:
Big Sky coaches picked the Vikings to finish third in the conference this season in the annual preseason coaches poll that was released in August. Portland State earned 74 points in the poll, placing them behind preseason favorites Northern Arizona and Montana. NAU and Montana each earned 93 total points in the poll, but NAU beat out Montana for the top spot on the virtue of NAU's five first-place votes to Montana's four. Weber State received the other two first-place votes and finished fourth in the poll with 72 total points. Northern Colorado and Idaho State, meanwhile, rounded out the hypothetical six-team Big Sky tournament field, as they placed fifth and sixth in the poll with 60 and 57 points, respectively.
2014 SEASON RECAP:
A senior-laden Vikings team surged over its final six matches of the regular season to finish second in the Big Sky last season, continuing the team's streak of finishing no worse than second in the Big Sky for the seventh straight season. The Vikings started Big Sky play just 1-2-1 after four matches, but then won five of their last six to finish at 6-2-2. Goalkeeper Caitlin Plese led the Vikings from the back, as she tied the Portland State career record for shutouts with 17 by the end of the season. Plese was also named the Big Sky Goalkeeper of the Year for the second straight season, and made her second straight All-Big Sky first team along with senior defender Kayla Henningsen and then-junior Cori Bianchini. Senior Kelsey Henningsen also made the All-Big Sky second team as a member of the team's defense, as well as Torie Morris, who was an All-Big Sky honorable mention. The Vikings also set a Big Sky Conference record at the start of the 2014 non-conference schedule, as the team broke the record for longest unbeaten streak with a 1-0 win over Utah Valley in its season opener. That win extended the Vikings' unbeaten streak to a record 14 matches, and the team would stretch it to 16 before a loss to then-No. 21 California snapped it. The Vikings also pulled out a dramatic, 1-0 overtime win over in-state rival Oregon early in the season, giving the Vikings their first win over the Ducks since 2004.