Oregon soccer struggles against ranked opponents, remains winless in Pac-10
The Oregon Ducks are a strong first-half team.
That same squad, however, is not nearly as strong over the final 45 minutes and it was that inconsistency that led to a 3-1 loss to No. 16 UCLA and a 1-1 draw to No. 19 USC this weekend at Pape Field.
Oregon got acquainted with U.S. National Team and UCLA standout Sydney Leroux on Friday night. The junior pounded home two goals, including the go-ahead score 88 minutes into the contest. The Bruins would pounce for one more before the end of regulation. Oregon head coach Tara Erickson knew her team played a solid match despite the outcome.
“We established ourselves in the game,” Erickson said. “They just caught some late breaks in the end.”
Senior Mercedes Walters netted Oregon’s only score on Friday night. Fellow senior Jen Stoltenberg was held without a goal for the first time in five matches. Erickson was quick to point out that a handful of players provided major contributions on Friday night.
“Mercedes was bumped into more of an attacking role,” Erickson said. “Mo Fitzgerald played outstanding and helped us control possession in the midfield, Nicole Bakke also played at a level beyond what we’ve seen of her in the past.”
UCLA handed Oregon its fourth consecutive loss, leaving the Ducks without a win in Pacific-10 Conference play. Sunday’s game against USC halted the losing streak, but the team came away bitter after a 1-1 draw.
Stoltenberg broke a scoreless tie in the 30th minute, assisted by a beautiful through ball from sophomore Scout Libke, which led to the breakaway score. The Oregon senior moved into second on the all-time goals list and is now three goals away from taking the lead as the Ducks’ all-time leader. Stoltenberg almost connected for a second score in Sunday’s match, but a left-foot strike from 35 feet away clipped the crossbar after beating USC keeper Shelby Church.
“I thought it was going in for sure,” Stoltenberg said.
USC battled back in the second half, earning a penalty kick after a foul at the edge of the 18-yard box. USC senior Karter Haug hit the far post on her penalty kick effort, giving the Ducks a fortuitous break.
However, less than 10 minutes later, Oregon keeper Lindsay Parlee committed another foul within the 18-yard box, leading to a second penalty kick. USC did not miss the second opportunity, as junior Ashli Sandoval guided home the equalizer in the 81st minute.
Stoltenberg voiced her team’s disappointment with the situation.
“It’s so frustrating when you’re the better team and the refs call unfortunate fouls,” Stoltenberg said. “We wanted to win, played to win, and we were the better team.”
Of the 19 goals the Ducks have scored this season, 13 have come in the first half and 10 have come from Stoltenberg. Despite these heavily skewed statistics, Erickson is comfortable with the output of her team.
“I like how we came out playing to win and controlled the overtimes,” Erickson added. “Our back four also really held USC and (keeper) Lindsay Parlee really helped with her ability to read balls.”
It was Parlee’s aggression that got her and the Ducks into a bit of trouble with the officials. The transfer from Washington State garnered a caution in the 69th minute for dissent, in addition to committing the foul which led to the second USC penalty kick and the Women of Troy’s only goal. Parlee explained the situation after the game.
“I wasn’t doing anything different. It was a 50-50 ball, but I guess the ref said I didn’t get the ball,” Parlee said.
Even with the setback, Erickson made it clear Parlee’s effort in goal was appreciated. From the goal mouth, the keeper also gave wide praises to her team for ending the losing streak.
“We finally put two 90-minute games together and we’re playing the best soccer we’ve played all year,” Parlee said.
The Washington schools are on tap for Oregon next weekend, starting with the Huskies at 7 p.m. on Friday night in Seattle.
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