Women’s soccer media day: Preseason changes and Kristen Parr’s transition to defense
Before the Oregon women’s soccer players hit the pitch Thursday morning, they took a team trip to Bend, Oregon. More specifically, they had a team bonding at newly converted defender Kristen Parr’s house where white water rafting and watching Unbroken were the highlights.
Needless to say, it was time well spent.
“A lot of the freshman opened up to us finally,” goalie Lauren Holden said. “Took them awhile though. We did a lot of team bonding exercises that normal people wouldn’t do and it brought us a lot closer.”
Today, the Ducks held their annual Media Day at Papé Field. It was a morning filled with new and old players all trying to get their legs loose with the pre-season rapidly approaching. Naturally, there were a few bumps and bruises as the team searched for their rhythm in August.
“The transition back onto the field from yesterday obviously gave us time to recover, get our legs back,” forward Shaylee Miner said. “I think we had a really good practice: high energy. Everybody is happy to be out here.”
The Ducks are coming off a 7-10-2 season.
For a team that has been aiming to compete at a high level in the Pac-12, excitement and confidence are running at an all-time high, especially with the return of players like Miner who sat out last year with an injury. And while the team is optimistic about defender Caitlyn Wong returning from an ACL tear back in April, there is a sense of calm among this roster.
The team’s goal is nothing short of finishing high in the Pac-12 rankings and making it to the postseason.
“Everyone has bought into the process and is really focusing on developing team chemistry,” Wong said. “We have a lot of great skill and athletic ability, but the biggest thing that I’m proud of personally is where we’ve come in terms of team chemistry and building a family. That’s the most exciting part and most promising part.”
One of the biggest changes heading into the season is Parr’s move to center back. Parr, one of the leading scorers last season as a midfielder, was asked to switch positions. The reason? To help anchor a young defense in the absence of Wong, who has done her part in helping mentor Parr into the new role. Parr has a reputation of being versatile and receptive, and said the transition hasn’t been easy. Still, she and her teammates look forward to the challenge.
“We’re hoping to get (Wong) back this season in the next couple weeks here,” coach Kat Mertz said. “But with that, KP is just so versatile. We’ve played her in the midfield; we’ve played her in the back. To be honest, she’s just a whole different level right now. She has all the qualities we need for the center back position.”
Behind Parr, there is also a change involving three goalies in the works. After losing starter Abby Steele, an All Pac-12 Honorable Mention last season, the Ducks are now looking to Holden (junior), Halla Hinriksdóttir (sophomore) and Katie McCormick (senior) to protect the net. All three are different types of goalies, which have made the competition intriguing early on.
“We’re competing out here every day,” Holden said. “Everyone is doing really well. It’s really exciting. It’s always going to be a hard training no matter what you do out there and whoever steps out onto the field Saturday is going to show they’ve earned.”
The next step for Mertz and the team will be to use the upcoming pre-season to gauge what they have to work with. Oregon is set to play Portland in an exhibition game this Saturday on the road.
Heading into her third season, Mertz is aiming high for her program and it appears her players have bought in. It will just be a matter of putting it all together when the conference play gets under way.
“We have the pre-season to feel out what he have, what we need to work on, how we build,” Parr said. “We really need to focus now on little things, so that when we get there (Pac-12 play), we take it game by game … hopefully shock a couple people with lots of wins and go at them.”
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