Soccer shows promise in tough games against ranked conference opponents USC, UCLA
The Oregon soccer team is coming together toward the second half of the Pacific-10 Conference schedule, but it might not be quite evident from the standings.
Winless in its last five matches, Oregon (4-7-3) showed well in perhaps their toughest pair of home contests this season. The Ducks hung with No. 16 UCLA until the last two minutes of play. On Sunday, Oregon led early but got punished for giving No. 19 USC two penalty kicks. They were the first two Oregon had given up all season. The Women of Troy found the back of the net on their second penalty kick and the game finished a 1-1 draw.
In the end, Oregon’s record for the weekend was 0-1-1, but every player on the field saw a big upside in how play went. Sophomore Lauren Thompson was quick to point out what had gone well.
“Everyone showed up at the same time and it was a full team effort,” Thompson said. “Our record is really a tricky thing because we are so good.”
This Friday and Sunday, the Ducks hit the road for a two-game set with the Washington schools. Road wins are at a premium in the Pac-10 Conference, but Oregon head coach Tara Erickson’s familiarity with the region may have the Ducks feeling at home.
Erickson played her college soccer at the University of Washington, where she was a three-time team MVP. After playing with the Huskies, Erickson coached Olympic Development Program in Washington as well as prep soccer before rejoining the collegiate ranks. Erickson reflected on her connections.
“Both of the (current) UW coaches were at my wedding,” Erickson said. “I have a ton of respect for how they recruit, run their program and style of play.”
At 9-5-1, the Huskies could give any team in the Pac-10 a hard time. However, the squad most recently dropped a pair in Northern California, their first back-to-back losses of the season. Junior Kate Deines paces Washington with eight goals on the season. This number reflects almost one-third of all Huskies’ scoring.
Washington State (6-9-0) has lost three of its last four in an up-and-down season. On paper, the Cougars are not as formidable an opponent as the Huskies, but Erickson was quick to point out that the conditions could give the home team an extra boost.
“It’s not supposed to snow, but we expect Pullman weather so we are wearing our screw-ins all week in practice,” Erickson said.
Oregon will lean on senior Jen Stoltenberg in the attack. Stoltenberg accounts for 10 of 20 Oregon scores, including goals in six of the last seven matches. Having one of the top strikers in the conference keeps the Ducks in contention against any opponent, although the senior has recently fulfilled a different role on the team.
Stoltenberg played the majority of the contest against UCLA in the defense, where she showed exactly how versatile she can be. Thompson, an everyday starter on the back line, remarked on the contribution Oregon’s star player has made in the back.
“I thought she was great back there and I thought it worked out nicely,” Thompson said.
Stoltenberg is no stranger to the defense. Erickson has put her in the back line before and the senior flexed between attack and defense in her high school days. For Erickson, managing where Stoltenberg plays on the field can be a tricky tactic.
“I have 100 percent confidence in her back there,” Erickson said. “But I also want teams to be concerned about her on the attack.”
Regardless of where Erickson decides to put Stoltenberg this weekend, the Ducks have a pretty strong idea of how they want to take care of business in Washington. In Erickson’s office, it’s either Fox Soccer Channel or old game tapes from future Pac-10 opponents on the television. Having graduated from Washington and played against her alma mater, Erickson knows exactly what they will bring to the table. Now the trick is just getting the whole team on the same page.
Goalkeeper and Washington State transfer Lindsay Parlee is coming off her first two-game weekend series of the season. Her opinion on the team’s direction is shared by her entire squad.
“We’re putting full halves together.” Parlee said. “It’s just about getting the result we want.”
Kickoff from Seattle on Friday is at 7 p.m., followed by a noon start time in Pullman on Sunday.
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