Oregon women’s soccer edges Colorado in home opener
A floating header by freshman Kyra Fawcett in the 74th minute proved to be the difference in the Ducks’ 1-0 win over Colorado on Friday night in their home opener at Pape Field. The win moves Oregon to 4-6-0 on the year and 1-1-0 in Pac-12 play.
Boasting the best offense in the conference, Colorado came out swinging. Within two minutes of kick-off, a shot by Colorado in the box hit off the top of the crossbar and out of bounds. The Buffs looked ready to put pressure on the Ducks from the very beginning.
“The first five minutes were a little hectic,” freshman Mia Costa said. “But we got into our own game and set the pace.”
The Ducks settled down and responded with close attempts in the 16th and 17th minutes respectively, but to no avail. The game was back and forth with each team getting close but no player being able to convert.
Coach Kat Mertz praised the teams’ defenses after the game. “We knew that number twenty, Brie Hooks, is a fast kid out wide. We knew that Colorado likes to attack the flanks so we did a really good job.”
Anchoring that back line for the Ducks was redshirt sophomore Caitlyn Wong, who started for the first time since tearing her ACL in April. Her road to recovery was long and arduous, but so far her aggressive play and leadership has made a difference on this year’s team.
“It’s so exciting to just be out on the field,” Wong said. “I always love a battle. It was just really nice to be out there.”
That sentiment was echoed by Mertz, who feels that having Wong on the field again makes the team better as a whole.
“She brings the most experience to the back line,” Mertz said. “It’s nice to have her, especially in Pac-12 play. The stakes are a little bit higher, the emotions are a little bit higher, so she has that presence back there to calm us down a little bit.”
Wong made her presence felt in her limited action on the field, recording her second career assist on a beautiful lob pass to Kyra Fawcett, who lobbed it in for the deciding goal. Fawcett also joined in the praise for her teammate.
“She’s a big presence and she’s the one who influences all of us. It’s great to have her on the field again.”
The late goal was bit of a toss up, but it landed in the Ducks’ favor.
“When Caitlyn kicked the ball, I was just backing up and I knew that it was coming. So at that point you’ve just got to jump up and go for it,” Fawcett said.
That ‘whatever it takes’ mentality is what the Ducks need to have if they want to be competitive in the Pac-12, which features four ranked teams according to Topdrawersoccer.com, including top 10 team Stanford. Oregon travels to Stanford on Oct 11.
Until then the Ducks must take it “one game at a time,” according to Mertz.
“The Pac-12 is wide open. It’s a championship game each game.”
Looking back on tonight she had nothing but praise for her players.
“Some freshman came in, some veterans played well. I thought the sophomores did well. I just thought it was a fun, good, team win.”
The Ducks look to continue their success on Sunday at Pape Field, when they take on the 3-4-3 Utah Utes. Kickoff is at 1 p.m.
Follow Gus Morris on Twitter @xgasbus
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