Oregon club men’s lacrosse wins second-straight conference crown
Tied with Simon Fraser at the start of the fourth quarter with a conference title on the line, the Oregon club men’s lacrosse team was poised for the final 15 [email protected]@http://oregonlacrosse.org/@@
“We didn’t want to change anything we were doing,” Oregon coach Joe Kerwin said. “We felt like we had them worn down.”
That confidence didn’t go unrewarded, as the top-seeded Ducks rolled past an energy-depleted Simon Fraser squad in the final quarter with eight unanswered goals, en route to a 16-8 victory Sunday afternoon in the championship game of the Pacific Northwest Collegiate Lacrosse League tournament at Wilsonville High School in Wilsonville, Ore.
The win gives the No. 12 Ducks their second consecutive and sixth overall PNCLL title. The Ducks (11-6, 3-0 PNCLL South) next face No. 9 Cal Poly on Tuesday in the first round of the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association national tournament in Denver.
“It’s definitely sweet,” junior midfielder Spencer Robertson said about the conference title. “But the cherry on the cake would be doing well at nationals.”
Sophomore midfielder Chris Osip led the Ducks with five goals and earned the tournament’s most valuable player award. @@(NOTE to copy editors: online roster says he’s an attacker, but he told me he’s been playing midfield)@@
“My teammates did a great job of spreading out the defense,” Osip said. “(Simon Fraser) weren’t sliding very quickly, and I was able to take advantage of it.”
Four Oregon players, including Robertson, who was recently named conference MVP, contributed two goals apiece.
The Ducks, however, got off to a slow start and were unable to grab the lead early on. The Clan (9-9, 3-0 PNCLL North) entered halftime with a 5-4 advantage after a back-and-forth first half, but the Ducks didn’t panic.
“We were fine,” senior goalie Nick Johnston said. “We weren’t even thinking about it. It was all just about putting the pedal to the metal. Just keep scoring; keep firing; keep playing our game.”
The Ducks responded impressively to open the second half, scoring four straight goals, capped by senior midfielder Kevin Clark’s nifty behind-the-back score in front of the goal that gave the Ducks an 8-5 lead.
Simon Fraser answered back with a scoring run of its own that evened the score at the end of three quarters, but the Clan would not make it back on the scoreboard for the rest of the contest.
Oregon came into the afternoon intending to wear down the undermanned Simon Fraser side, a strategy that paid dividends in the Ducks’ 22-14 home victory against the Clan last month. By the fourth quarter on Sunday, it was clear the Ducks’ game plan had taken its toll on their opponents again.
“They were definitely very tired at the end,” Robertson said. “They didn’t want to run. They were throwing bad passes.”
Oregon took over control of the game in the fourth quarter, and its eight-goal outpouring exhilarated the Ducks bench and the crowd of mostly Oregon supporters.
The low scoring early on was due in part to the showcase of impressive saves by both goalies. Johnston and Simon Fraser’s Darren Zwack made several remarkable stops that frustrated their opponents and energized teammates.
“I love it,” said Johnston, who was named the conference’s defensive player of the year. “Goalie is such a creative position. You’ve got to be really creative with it. Everyone has a different style.”
The Ducks, who topped Oregon State 18-5 Saturday night in the semifinals, have now won eight in a row and find themselves in the national tournament for the third straight season.
“We’re just peaking at the right time,” Osip said. “We’ve been working very hard in practice, day in and day out. Our chemistry has improved a lot lately, and we’re just firing on all cylinders.”
The Ducks are the eighth seed in the 16-team national field and are seeing ninth-seeded Cal Poly (14-5, 5-1 Western Collegiate Lacrosse League) for the second time this season. The Ducks defeated the Mustangs, 7-6, in a defensive battle at home last month.
Oregon heads to Denver on Monday, and Kerwin said any celebrating of this conference championship will be short-lived.
“We only have a week here to prepare,” Kerwin said. “We’ve just got to get right back at it.”
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