PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Portland Pilots men’s soccer team has certainly picked back up where they left off last season.

“The Elite Eight run and the success that we had last year gave these guys belief and confidence, a blueprint for what it takes to be among the nation’s elite,” said Portland Pilots head coach Nick Carlin-Voigt.

This year the Pilots are currently ranked 17th as they head into a big matchup against Oregon State on Saturday which is set to air on Portland’s CW at 7 p.m.

The Pilots only have three losses this season coming into the game, all of which were on the road and two of which were to ranked teams.

“The five starters that we returned from our run last year have done a great job in terms of leading the group and showing that it wasn’t just a one-off,” said Carlin-Voigt.

Their success, especially after losing over half of their starters from the 2022 team, is pretty remarkable.

Especially in college soccer where the deck is even more so stacked against non-Power 5 programs.

“We feel like we have one of the best soccer experiences in the country even though we’re a small Catholic school tucked away in the Northwest,” said Carlin-Voigt. “This is a soccer school, and this is a destination for the top players.”

One thing’s for certain, this team’s top players—along with Oregon State’s—will be raring to go come Saturday, as the state’s only two DI men’s soccer programs square off.

“That’s a big rivalry,” said Pilots forward and West Linn native Jacob Babalai. “It’s the most exciting game of the year for me every year, for all of us. We always want to beat them. They always want to beat us. They’re always intense and feisty.”

Oh, and just to add a little more intrigue to this matchup: Who did the Pilots eliminate from the NCAA Tournament last year?

“Last year when we beat them in the playoffs, that felt really good,” said Babalai. “Probably my favorite moment from all of last year, going there on the road, beating them, silencing their fans. It was a great feeling.”