Before the season began, Oregon Tech women’s soccer coach Brandon Porter said there was one major goal for the season — to remain focused for the entire season.
If the Hustlin’ Owls did that, he said, they had a chance to be good, very good.
Tech was good.
OIT went 10-0-2 in the Cascade Collegiate Conference to win its first title in the sport.
“Honestly,” Porter said the other day, “it has been about consistency. There has been a little trial and here and sticking to what’s made us a little better each year.
“They’ve been very committed, and it’s more than the Xs and Os,” Porter said of the Owls, who, by winning the conference crown, secured an automatic berth to the NAIA national championships which begin Nov. 22 at 16 sites around the country.
“It’s been how they operate day in and day out, on the field, on campus and in the community,” Porter said.
He called the Hustlin’ Owls competitive, a key element in recruiting players.
“These kids have had to earn everything,” Porter said, and grinned when he added: “We might be the only team in the country that gets ready (for matches) in a shed, and has no locker room.”
There has been, some players have said, a mindset in which the women have had to prove themselves every time they play, and that mindset will be a work Tuesday when Tech opens play in the conference championships.
“What the women have done is not an easy task,” Porter said. “It’s been cool. It’s been a cool environment for the kids.”
Before the season began, the coach said it was nice to be considered a regular for the conference tournament, but Tech still was projected for a fifth-place finish in the coach’s preseason poll.
“We still have to earn our success,” Porter said before the season began.
What transpired, however, has not been a massive surprise, he said, especially with veterans returning for a defense which leads the NAIA with its 13 shutouts in a season where the team has a 13-2-3 overall record.
Tech’s effort have been rewarded, almost begrudgingly, with Tech having received votes in the national poll for the first time in program history. Wednesday, the Hustlin’ Owls moved into the top 25 for the first time and will enter the postseason ranked No. 24.
“This team has good learners who work hard to be prepared,” Porter said.
And remain hungry.