Senior night ends in hardfought defeat for Oregon

Jack Hunter

Almost one year ago, the Ducks rode into Denver on the Pioneers’ senior day and beat them 11-9. The Pioneers exacted their revenge on Saturday with the names of Oregon’s five seniors emblazoned on the grass in yellow at Pape Field.

No. 20 Denver (12-4) improved to 6-0 in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play with the 9-7 victory. The Ducks (7-10) fell to 3-3 in the MPSF, good for the No. 4 seed heading into the federation tournament. Despite the loss, head coach Jen Larsen saw a number of positives in the game.

“I was very pleased with how we changed paces and we played a full 60 minutes,” Larsen said. “The whole team wanted it on senior day, especially knowing that it was against the top team in the MPSF.”

Senior Lexi Sanders, whose 62 points on the year paces Denver, opened the scoring two minutes into play. Five minutes burned off the clock before Oregon countered with an Alex Breiner goal, which tied the game at one.

Although the Ducks stayed close to the MPSF’s No. 1, the 1-1 tie was the best-looking score Oregon saw on Saturday. Denver’s Kara Secora found the mesh to untie the contest, the first of three goals for Secora on the day. The teams combined for five goals in the last 10 minutes of the first half and Denver held a 6-4 advantage after 30 minutes.

After the break, scoring stalled as Oregon played for possession and stymied Denver’s attempts at a quick counterattack. Fifteen minutes passed before two Oregon sophomores connected for a score and pulled the Ducks to within one. Bina Barrett fed sophomore Jana Drummond on the way to her second score of an eventual hat trick on the afternoon. Oregon senior Kaitlyn Pasko appreciated the effort of Ducks’ underclassmen on her senior day.

“We all decided to play like this was everybody’s last game, not just the seniors,” Pasko said.

Barrett’s success finding cutters forced the Pioneers to relax their riding pressure on defense, a strategy which visibly benefited them down the stretch. Three of the next four goals went Denver’s way, punctuated by the sound of Oregon repeatedly hitting the framework and failing to collect rebounds in the attacking zone.

“It was important that we came out strong against Denver and we did that, but we must have had four pipes, and in the end if those had been goals, maybe we would have been up by three,” Pasko said.

Secora and Drummond, who both recorded hat tricks, traded two goals apiece until the eight-minute mark in the second half. The Ducks trailed 8-6 but had the ball and momentum in their favor when a dubious whistle from inside the offensive fan gave the Pioneers the ball. Within 60 seconds, senior Ali Flury had deposited the ball in the net, and Denver was back up by three.

The score set off an Oregon effort geared toward a quick strike, a style they had avoided throughout the contest until it became necessary.

“In lacrosse, you can score in ten seconds off the draw; (we) recognized that (we) were still in it.”

Again, it was the underclassmen who quarterbacked an offensive attack against Denver on senior day. Alex Breiner found Drummond with under five minutes, but Drummond’s quick shot missed. Another strong look for Drummond was met by a Flury check which netted a yellow card for Flury. It signified the end of Flury’s day. Despite being a player up, the Ducks were unable to capitalize on a clear opportunity because of the foul. Oregon’s late effort was capped by a Barrett free position goal to get Oregon within two, where the game would end.

“We hustled and worked hard,” Pasko said. “Denver is the No. 1, so holding them within 2 gave us a lot of confidence heading into the (MPSF) tournament.”

Following the 9-7 loss, Oregon will travel to Denver for the MPSF tournament, where its matchup is to be determined. Denver receives a bye into the semifinals aside from the benefit of playing on their home turf field. For the MPSF, it is a season of firsts. It is the first time the federation will receive an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament, and it is the first time a team not named Stanford has won the regular season crown.

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