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News / Sports / Clark County Sports

Boon: Pilot & Captain

Washougal grad hopes to lead UP soccer back to NCAA playoffs

By Paul Danzer, Columbian Soccer, hockey and Community Sports Reporter
Published: September 10, 2016, 11:02pm
4 Photos
University of Portland defender Ellie Boon is in her senior year with the Pilots. She is a graduate of Washougal High School.
University of Portland defender Ellie Boon is in her senior year with the Pilots. She is a graduate of Washougal High School. (UP Athletics photo) (University of Portland athletics photo) Photo Gallery

PORTLAND — Standing with her University of Portland soccer teammates prior to the first match of this season, Ellie Boon was keenly aware that her chance to contribute to the storied program is temporary.

“Standing out there listening to the national anthem it just kind of hits you. This is it. This is the start of the end,” Boon said.

Boon has been a fixture in the Pilots lineup since she arrived on campus in the summer of 2013, five days after graduating from Washougal High School. During her first three seasons, she has experienced the heartbreak of a stunning playoff loss and the disappointment of missing the NCAA tournament. She has found playing at Merlo Field on the UP campus to be more special than she dreamed, and she has persevered when an injury limited her ability to play at her best.

She will draw upon those experiences this season, both on the field and as the team captain for a program trying to return to postseason after a rare two-year absence.

“Being a captain is something special. I have loved this program since I was a little girl in the stands,” Boon said. “It is an honor to be in the position I am. My goal, as always, is to lead by example and I am lucky enough to have 20 amazing girls surrounding me who share my passion.

“I know we have what it takes to do something special this year.”

When she takes the field Sunday for a match against visiting St. John’s, it will be her 62nd game for the Pilots. Her only goal came in the second of those — an overtime game winner at Oregon in 2013. Her assist in a draw with Cal Poly last weekend was her 10th. She recorded her 11th assist on Friday against Southern Utah. Her four assists last season tied for the team lead, and Boon said that getting forward to create scoring chances is one of her personal goals for this season.

Boon was an honorable mention all-West Coast Conference selection as a freshman and sophomore, and second-team all WCC last season.

Boon knew playing at Merlo Field would be special. But there was one surprise.

“The best part that honestly I don’t think I thought about a ton was how much support I would get from Washougal. How many people follow me,” Boon said.

She can relate to the two freshmen starting alongside her in the Pilots’ defense, ready to give them the same strong guidance she received when stepping into the lineup as a freshman in 2013.

“I had great upperclassmen to scream at me on the field, which is what you need as a freshman,” she said. “Now it’s my turn to scream at freshmen and make sure that they’re doing the right thing.”

In 2013, freshman Boon adjusted to playing left back full time. The leader in her today remembers how her older teammates had her back when Boon’s foul gave Santa Clara a tying penalty kick in a critical late-season match. And she remembers the sting of a bitter and bizarre loss to Illinois in the second-round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament.

Getting back to the NCAAs is goal one for the 2016 Pilots after back-to-back losing seasons that delivered more life lessons than satisfaction for Boon. Her sophomore season was especially difficult. She suffered an injury in the second match of that season — a torn hip flexor that went undiagnosed and thus did not heal until after the season.

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Sometimes she was in tears walking to class because of the pain. But in retrospect Boon said she was blessed that the injury wasn’t worse, that she was able to play and not lose a season to the injury.

Dealing with the injury and to some challenging classes as she began studies for her biology major was doubly tough she said, and she distanced herself from friends.

“After the season I realized I wasn’t in a healthy mindset, and I had to go back to some friends and say ‘I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to blow you off so many times. I just had to figure out some things for myself.’ ”

Pilots coach Garrett Smith said Boon has grown into a tremendous leader who is the go-to person for all of her teammates.

“Ellie’s contributions range from shutting down opponents and preserving shutouts to helping our team’s attack down the flanks,” Smith said. “It goes without saying that Ellie is involved in everything this team needs to do to be successful, which is exactly what you would expect from our team captain.”

Early in her Pilots career, Boon relied on the speed that served her so well as a high-scoring forward at Washougal. Three years later, she is more apt to set the tone with a hard tackle.

“Some people don’t want to go up against me because I tackle hard in the first 5 minutes and then they think twice about it, and that’s great for me on defense,” Boon said.

Boon is on schedule to graduate in the spring with that biology degree. She plans to study to become a physical therapist. But that might have to wait. Boon hopes to play professional soccer in the National Women’s Soccer League or in Europe.

“At the end of the day you’re not playing for the money, you’re playing because it’s your passion,” she said. “I know I still have some of that drive and passion left, so I might as well keep going until I don’t feel that anymore.”

A Pilot Project

Ellie Boon is spearheading this season’s service project for the University of Portland women’s soccer team. At each home game, the team is selling seedling Rose of Sharon plants for $5 — “love it if people would donate more,” Boon said — to raise money for North Portland’s Open School North, where the team also volunteers.

The seeds for these plants come from the Rose bushes behind the grandstand of Merlo Field. Boon said fans who buy the roses will be getting a piece of Merlo Field while also supporting a good cause.

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Columbian Soccer, hockey and Community Sports Reporter