Creating a brand new chemistry

For the Oregon women’s soccer team, the process of building chemistry began this summer with the early arrival of the large freshman class. Before most seasons, the team is only given a couple weeks to get to know one another before it takes the field for the first game. But with 10 new faces joining the squad, fifth-year head coach Tara Erickson knew something would have to be done differently.

“It’s been awesome. We had all the kids here all summer, so that really shows the chemistry off the field, then shows building on the field with some of the one-and two-touch passing and ball movement,” Erickson said.

While a handful of new players joined the team this summer, Erickson also managed to gain two very talented assistant coaches in Lauren Hanson and Mac Wilson. Hanson, formerly stationed at the University of Portland, won two national championships, one as a player in 2002 and one as a coach in 2005.

“She has a high level of expectation for the players and for us as a coaching staff,” Erickson said. “So she really brought a different dynamic with a very defensive approach to the game.”

Both Hanson and Wilson arrived last winter, so they’ve had plenty of time to adjust to the Oregon program.

“Mac has added an invaluable new level of expectation for the kids, which has pushed them and in turn has pushed me as well,” Erickson said.

But equally important to the new additions are the Duck veterans.

Offensively, junior Jen Stoltenberg has been able to pick up where she left off last season as an honorable mention All-Pac-10 selection. She ranks among the top 10 in school history for game winning assists, multi-goal games, game-winning goals, career goals, total points, career shots and assists.

On the defensive side, senior captains Danielle Sweeney and Dani Oster have been instrumental in the overall success of the team, both on and off the field.

“I definitely think we’ve improved on every game that we’ve played,” Sweeney said. “We go back and look at the film from each game and figure out a few things to work out in practice, and then try to work on those things during out next game.”

Erickson commented that when you have such a large number of underclassmen — 13 in total — the leadership role is a crucial part of the team’s success.

“They’ve been awesome,” Erickson said of her captains. “For everything we’ve accomplished on the field, a big part of it has been their leadership and the role that they’ve taken on in leading the underclassmen.”

What has made Sweeney and Oster such important parts of Oregon’s success the past few years is their ability to stay healthy and on the field for nearly every single game. They both played in all 60 games prior to the start of the 2009 season, and hope that this could be the year they reach the NCAA Tournament.

“Our motto this year is, take it one game at a time,” Sweeney said. “We’d like to get to the tournament; that’s been the goal since I came here as a freshman.”

Oster shared similar feelings of assurance with her co-captain.

“I’m just more confident in the team this year compared to last year,” she said. “Everyone works hard for each other, and we have great players off the bench who can contribute
right away.

“I think we have some exciting things to come,” Oster said. “If we stay on this role I think we are going to do very well the rest of the season.”

The Ducks’ first Pac-10 contest will take place Friday, Oct. 9 as Oregon hosts California at
7 p.m. at Papé Field.

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