By Ben Everett | Sports Writer
Baylor soccer heads to Portland, Ore., to participate in the Nike Portland Invitational on Friday and Sunday. University of Portland, University of Washington and Boise State will also be in attendance.
The Bears (4-0-1) face Portland (2-4-0) at 9 p.m. on Friday followed by a matchup against Washington (4-2-0) at 2 p.m. Sunday.
Baylor is coming off a weekend home sweep with a 1-0 victory over UTSA on Friday and a 1-0 win against Ball State on Sunday.
Still undefeated, the Bears have faced tough teams, but head coach Paul Jobson said the best competition has yet to come.
“We’ve been challenged, but we’re about to take the challenge onto another level,” Jobson said. “From here on out, it’s just high level. You’ve got Portland and Washington this weekend, SMU is in the top 25 and then the Big 12. I think there is a true excitement to take the next step and see where we are.”
The Bears have only played one road game this season, which they tied against Rice. Baylor had its road trip to Houston cut short by Hurricane Harvey, forcing it to cancel its matchup with Houston Baptist University.
Jobson said the prospects of a full weekend road trip bode well for team chemistry.
“There’s a lot of team bonding that goes on on a road trip when it’s extended,” Jobson said. “I think the girls are excited to get away, get on the road, see some new scenery. They’re excited about the competition we’re going to face.”
Portland is led by senior forward Hannah Griffiths Boston, who has two of the team’s three goals on the season. Boston is one of only four seniors on the team. The rest of the team is composed of seven freshmen, nine sophomores and three juniors.
Jobson said while the players are young, the tradition of the Portland program makes them a difficult matchup.
“They’re a good team, a younger team this year,” Jobson said. “They’ve got some youngsters, but they’re battlers. They work hard and understand the game. It’s always a great environment there. They’re a traditional men’s and women’s super program over the years, so they have a great following and it’s a great soccer community.”
Washington’s top scorers are senior forwards Shannon Simon and Kimberley Keever, each of whom has recorded three goals and one assist on the season.
Both Portland and Washington participated in the Husky Invitational last weekend. Portland dropped games to New Mexico and No. 2 Florida, while Washington managed to escape with wins over both the Lobos and Gators.
Jobson said he is excited about going up against a team in Washington that seems to be peaking right now.
“Washington is more of a veteran-laden team,” Jobson said. “We’ve played them twice over the last few years, and we always seem to catch them on a down year. But they beat the No. 2 team in the country and they seem to be on a good streak right now.”
As for Portland, despite the early season losses, Boston thinks the Pilots are just now coming together as a team.
“After coming off a weekend playing the No. 2 team in the country, Florida, we’re feeling like we’re starting to really gel,” Boston told CSN Portland. “And we’re excited to show that off on Merlo [Field] in front of the fans.”
Meanwhile, Baylor will lean on midfield junior Julie James and senior Aline De Lima to create offensive opportunities, as each has recorded two assists on the season. Junior forward Jackie Crowther leads the team with three goals this year.
Crowther said that she sees this weekend’s games as a challenge, but she is excited for the opportunity it brings.
“It will be a good measurement of how we are progressing and growing,” Crowther said. “I can’t wait for the challenge and how God is going to use this team throughout this season.”
The Bears are 0-2 all-time against the Pilots and 2-1 all-time against the Huskies, defeating them last season 2-0.
Following the trip to Portland, Baylor will face No. 23 SMU at 8:30 p.m. Sept. 17 in Dallas.