Going away to college is a relative term. For Ross Vaillancourt, it meant more than leaving home. He was leaping three time zones. The former prep soccer...

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Going away to college is a relative term. For Ross Vaillancourt, it meant more than leaving home. He was leaping three time zones.


The former prep soccer All-American in New Hampshire made his way across the country to Seattle Pacific. And while he was happy to trade New England snow for Northwest rain, his primary destination — the NCAA Division II playoffs — has always been just out of reach. Until now.


On Saturday, Vaillancourt will lead the fifth-ranked Falcons into a pivotal matchup with Seattle University. The final selections to the NCAA II tournament will be announced Monday.


“It’s going to be a huge game for playoffs’ sake,” said Vaillancourt, a senior midfielder. “One reason I came here was because I thought SPU could win a national championship, and I’m thrilled that in my senior year we’re a contender.”


The all-region selection and four-year starter earns respect not from his statistics — three goals and four assists this season — but for his ability to dictate a game’s pace.


“I’ve never been a big scorer, and I lead more by example than by being vocal,” he said. “But I think we have a better chance of winning if we have the ball at our feet.”


Seattle Pacific (12-2-3) is the NCAA leader with 28 postseason appearances, including five national titles. Yet the Falcons have not qualified since 2000.


Picks of the week


Volleyball

Stanford vs. Washington, Edmundson Pavilion, Thursday, 7 p.m.


Soccer


SPU vs. Seattle U., Saturday, at Interbay Stadium; men’s game at 2 p.m., women’s at 7 p.m.


It was at about that time that Vaillancourt read about Falcons coach Cliff McCrath in a magazine and attended McCrath’s summer camp on Whidbey Island. Later, he visited the SPU campus.


“I wanted to go to a Christian school, and I liked being on a small campus in a big city,” Vaillancourt said.


SPU was the only nationally ranked team not to make the playoffs in 2004. Such is life in the extremely competitive Far West region, in which the Falcons currently are ranked second.


“We had a great team last year, and had we made it, I feel like we could’ve done some damage,” he said.


Now, possibly needing a win over the defending national champion to advance, Vaillancourt is looking forward to a packed Interbay Stadium for the Caffe D’Arte Cup.


“With it possibly being my last home game, it’s going to be a blast,” he said.


Other SPU sports


Women’s soccer: Since having wisdom teeth extracted, sophomore Sarah Martinez (Cedar Park Christian of Bothell) has scored five goals in three games to take over the Great Northwest Athletic Conference scoring lead. No. 2 SPU (15-0-3) can clinch its fourth straight league title with one more win.


Volleyball: Junior Jenna Von Moos (Stanwood) set a conference record with 76 assists against Western Washington last week for No. 16 SPU (19-5).


Seattle U.


Men’s soccer: Bobby McAlister (Kennedy of Burien) and Alex Chursky (Decatur) have four goals apiece in their last five matches against crosstown rival Seattle Pacific.


Men’s basketball: After last week’s exhibition win over Northwest U., the Redhawks will face back-to-back NCAA I opponents in exhibitions, including Friday’s game at Pacific.


Volleyball: Sarah Sommerman (Kentridge) needs 34 kills in the final four regular-season matches to break the GNAC career record. Sommerman has 1,401.


Women’s soccer: Sophomore Ashley Porter (Inglemoor) owns the GNAC season assists record with 14, the most by a SU player since 1990.


Washington


Cross country: Tori Tyler (Palo Alto, Calif.) had the second-best finish for a freshman at the Pac-10 championships last Saturday, placing eighth.


Volleyball: The No. 2 Huskies host No. 4 Stanford on Thursday and No. 18 California on Friday. The Huskies, who defeated the Bay Area schools on the road last month, have beaten Stanford twice in the same season only once before.


Men’s soccer: The Huskies host Portland on Friday before traveling to Spokane to face Gonzaga on Sunday. The Huskies are 6-1 against nonconference opponents this season.


Women’s soccer: Forward Kim Taylor (Woodland Hills, Calif.) is the only senior on the roster for the Huskies, who complete their season at home against Washington State on Friday. The game will be the 84th career appearance for Taylor, tying her with Tina Frimpong for the most games played by a Husky, and her 78th start, breaking the school record.


Washington St.


Volleyball: After tying the school record with 34 digs against Arizona State earlier this season, freshman libero Jalen Pendon (Spanaway Lake) recorded 35 at Arizona State last weekend to break the mark.


Western Washington


Football: WWU’s home game against Western Oregon on Saturday at Bellingham’s Civic Stadium is the last game for 16 seniors, as well as coach Rob Smith (17 seasons) and assistant Terry Todd (20 seasons).


Women’s golf: The Vikings finished the fall undefeated, winning four tournaments and one dual. Katja Trygg (Bainbridge Island) ranks No. 1 nationally among NCAA II players with a 72.9 scoring average.


Volleyball: Libero Courtney Schneider (Snohomish) has 527 digs this season and is virtually assured of breaking the school record of 542 with four matches remaining.


Other colleges


Central Washington: Senior running back Landon Hall (Edmonds-Woodway) rushed for 109 of his 133 yards after halftime as the Wildcats scored 24 points in the second half to overcome a 28-7 deficit to beat WWU and clinch the GNAC title.


Eastern Washington: The women’s soccer team qualified for its third Big Sky championship in four years, and will play in the four-team tournament this week in Ogden, Utah.


Gonzaga: The women’s soccer team, riding a five-match unbeaten streak, closes out the regular season at home against the University of San Francisco on Saturday.


Puget Sound: Rory Lee (Klahowya of Seabeck) became the first Loggers running back since 1996 to rush for 1,000-plus yards in a season with 242 yards in a 38-7 win over Colorado College. Lee has 1,120 yards, 112 short of the school record.


Whitman: Mckenzie Hoffman (Eastlake of Sammamish) tied the score late in the second half and Kara Mackenzie (Lewis and Clark of Spokane) scored the winner just 2:26 into overtime as Whitman edged Pacific Lutheran 2-1 Sunday. Hoffman, a senior forward, has 23 goals and 14 assists as a four-year starter.


Elsewhere: Freshman midfielder Angela Hulse (Juanita of Kirkland) scored the winning goal in Jacksonville’s 2-1 women’s soccer win last Wednesday over North Florida. The Dolphins clinched a spot in the Atlantic Sun Tournament that begins Thursday. … Junior linebacker Lee Driftmier (Bellevue) had two interceptions and a fumble recovery in Yale’s 37-3 football victory over Columbia.


Sports information directors


contributed to this notebook.