Portland Pilots look to former star player Michelle French for wins as head coach

Portland Pilot's new Head Coach Michelle French. While at the University of Portland, French was an All-American defender. (Photo: Brian Warner/KATU Sports)

The college soccer season is months away; however, new Pilots Head Coach Michelle French is loving life at the University of Portland.

She’s back on campus, where she was an All-American soccer player in the late 1990s, graduating in 1999.

“To come back here is extremely special,” says French, “because this is where I grew up as a player and a person. So, to be put in a position where I can hopefully have the same impact that Clive and the rest of the coaching staff had on me and obviously the University as well, I couldn’t be more blessed.”

French played under legendary coach Clive Charles and helped the Pilots reach three NCAA Final Fours during her time at Portland. She also played for the U.S. Women’s national team and earned a silver medal in the 2000 Olympics. The past few years she has been an assistant coach with Team USA.

“I knew she had played here,” says Taryn Ries, a Pilots forward, adding, “Obviously her picture’s on the wall in the locker room. So, it was very important to me to have someone that understood the tradition and she’s also very excited and had a lot of experience, so I think she’s just going to be a great asset.”

French was named the new head coach last month and takes over a program that won only five games last season.

“I’m thankful that we have a number of months prior to the start of the season,” says French. “It gets the opportunity for the players to get to know us as a coaching staff and for us as a staff to evaluate where we are at as a team.”

There’s excitement in the women’s soccer program at UP again and another former Pilots star, Rachel Rapinoe, has joined the coaching staff. She’s a volunteer assistant. Rapinoe’s a former pro, who played for the Pilots’ 2005 National Championship Team.

“I think anyone, who’s come through this program, we always bleed purple,” says Rapinoe. “So any chance that we can get involved in it, and also the energy that Frenchie is bringing is very positive. It’s very light, and I’m excited to not only learn from her, but just see where she can take it.”

Rachael and U.S. National Team star Megan Rapinoe are sisters -- twin sisters - and both played together at the University of Portland.

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