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Pilots pick up hard-fought exhibition win

Rookie Danica Evans nets the only goal in the team's 1-0 win over Portland State on Saturday


by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: DAVID BALL - Freshman forward Danica Evans eludes a pair of Viking defender while making a run down the sideline in the first half Saturday.Each side had plenty of chances, but freshman forward Danica Evans was the only one able to wrinkle the net during the Portland Pilots’ 1-0 exhibition win over cross-town rival Portland State in a women’s soccer match Saturday night at Merlo Field.

A scoreless battle was well past the hour-long mark when Portland earned a throw-in from the corner of the field. The ball squirted past a crowd of players in the 18-yard box before finding Evans’ foot for a big blast that cut through the center of the goal from 12 yards out.

With the lead in hand, the Pilots issued the ‘No more shots’ battle cry.

But Portland State wasn’t about to oblige.

The Vikings put on a fierce rally, earning four corner kicks over the final 15 minutes and keeping Portland’s backline busy.

Emma Cooney had the first chance at the equalizer when she found an opening at the tip of the 18-yard box, firing a high shot that forced Pilots’ goalie Nichole Downing to shuffle her feet only to watch the attempt carry over the top of the crossbar.

Two minutes later, Ariana Cooley put a corner kick in play that found teammate Kayla Henningsen on the near side. Her deflection pin-balled in front of the goal before the Pilots got a solid foot on it and cleared it away amongst a crowd of Vikings who were pleading for a hand-ball infraction. No whistle blew, and play carried past the center line.

Portland State’s best chance to force the draw came on its last shot of the night when Cori Bianchini knocked a left-footed blast on target from 15 yards out. The ball clipped a Pilots’ defender halfway to its destination, deflecting the shot inches over the top.

Portland held an 11-4 advantage in shots for the match, sending Vikings’ goalie Angela Haluska flying twice in the first half to make stops.

Portland nearly took the lead in the final minute before intermission when Micaela Capelle made a long run out of the center circle, ending with a give-and-go with teammate Emily Sippel before sending her shot wide of the post.

Portland State had a chance for the lead midway through the second half when Bianchini played a floater across the mouth of the goal. Teammate Henningsen was in position on the far side, but she was unable to get high enough and the ball skimmed across the top of her head and bounced out of play.

The Pilots open the regular season at home at 7 p.m. Friday against No. 14 Marquette, while Portland State travels to Oregon for a 5 p.m. match.