Young Ducks hope for more ups than downs this season

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Summer is when the next year is made and for the University women’s soccer team, and this year is no different. The entire team arrived early this summer, building chemistry through extra practices and more bonding.

This additional preparation comes after the Ducks lost seniors Jessica Goodell, Allison Newton, Nicole Dobrzynski, Darcie Gardner, Carrie Holland and Jessie Chatfield. It’s necessary considering how many new faces Oregon has; head coach Tara Erickson explained the significance of losing those veterans.

“A lot of them played a ton of games from their freshman year to their senior year,” she said.

The team is also welcoming 10 new freshmen. You might say they are in a retooling phase.

Last season was a hard pill to swallow. Oregon finished at .500 with nine wins, nine losses and two draws. Pacific-10 Conference play was especially frustrating. The Duck women only recorded two wins, with six losses and a draw.

Senior midfielder Dani Oster pointed to one of the main problems last season.

“Last season was a rollercoaster season,” she said. “We would play great and then the next day we would come out and struggle.”

Erickson explained that losing Chatfield to injury also made a significant impact.

“We had a career-ending injury to our senior goalkeeper,” she said. “That was a really big hurdle for our team to get over.”

The absence of Chatfield shouldn’t worry anybody too much, though. After coming in fresh out of Sprague High School and manning the goalposts most of last season, sophomore Cody Miles is ready to build on a mass of experience. Not to mention that the rest of the freshman class is also very promising so far.

“They’ve voluntarily come in for summer,” Erickson said. “I think that says a lot about them and their futures.”

Julie Armstrong, a freshman forward who played for the Canadian national team, figures to be one of the brightest prospects.

“She’s a very powerful forward who’s going to make a big impact,” Oster said.

The freshman class is quickly integrating into the Duck system this summer. Associate head coach Lauren Hanson is very optimistic about the new arrivals coming early.

“The team that figures it out first is the team that will do well,” she said.

The incoming freshman class is also quite athletic and looks ready to play big minutes from the start. Junior defender Danielle Sweeney touted her teammates’ ability to step right in.

“Our freshman class has a ton of speed, so hopefully we’ll be able to plug them in,” she said.

And with the upperclassmen singing the praise of the freshmen, one would be hard-pressed to find any member of the soccer team hyping individual performances. Team chemistry is the primary focus this summer.

“We’re bypassing all those little glitches that happen in the first couple weeks of preseason,” Oster said.

Jen Stoltenberg and Kirstie Kuhns, a junior forward and midfielder respectively, look to be leaders on this young squad.

“They should be two key personalities on our team this year,” Hanson said.

However, even with the 10 new faces, Erickson has high expectations for this team next season. She won’t expect anything less than the best. “My number-one goal is to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament,” she said.

Oster is also optimistic about the dividends the extra preparation will pay out. “As long as we keep our consistency,” she said. “Then we’re going to contend for the top two spots in the Pac-10.”

The journey starts with the preseason on Aug. 22 against the University of Portland Pilots.

“We’re well prepared to play them,” Sweeney said. “You guys are going to have a fun time watching us.”

That’s when the University of Oregon will witness team chemistry forged throughout an entire summer.

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