SportsWomen's Soccer

Women’s soccer preview: Ducks poised to make their mark in the Pac-12

The Ducks are 10 games into their 2016-2017 season, but you could say their season has just begun, with the Pac-12 season kicking off this past weekend.

After a disappointing 2015-16 campaign that saw the team go 3-8 in conference, Oregon had a promising start to this season. It went 6-2-1 in nonconference play, already matching its overall win total from the prior season. The Ducks’ strong start has earned them the No. 24 spot in the NCAA RPI rankings.

“I feel good. I know it’s weird to say that after a loss,” goalie Halla Hinriksdottir said after the Ducks lost to Portland. “I’m still full of confidence. We’ve done so well in the nonconference season. I think we’re definitely on the right path. … I think we’re excited to start conference play.”

Earlier this season, Hinriksdottir set the UO record with a shutout streak of 391 minutes and seven seconds.

Sophomore forward Kyra Fawcett has continued her strong play from her freshman season. In nonconference action alone, Fawcett matched goals total from all of last season with three. Freshman Jayne Lydiatt has made an immediate impact on the offensive end with three early goals to start the season. Midfielder Marissa Everett, who led the team in goals scored last season, has only one so far, but not for lack of aggressiveness – her 20 shots on goal lead the team.

While pleased with the strong start to the season, players and coaches both know that the Pac-12 slate is a different challenge. The Ducks’ nine points last season led to a disappointing 10th place finish in conference.

The Ducks have plenty of leadership this year, beginning with seniors Ashlee Schulz and Marlo Sweatman. Schulz and Sweatman are the team leaders in minutes played; they’ll look to provide a steady presence for a team filled with 10 newcomers.

The Ducks’ Pac-12 season started last Sunday with what could be its toughest test of season. It fell 3-0 to Stanford, the No. 1 team in the NCAA’s RPI rankings. The final score, however, may not have told the whole story. It was a scoreless game at the half. Stanford eventually wore down them in the second half, but the Ducks proved they have the fight to make some noise in the Pac-12 this season.

It won’t get much easier soon for the Ducks. They host No. 16 USC on Thursday in search of their first Pac-12 victory. Other threats in the conference are No. 11 UCLA, No. 22 Utah  and No. 27 Cal.

“The Pac-12 is the conference of champions,” head coach Kat Mertz said on Sept. 19. “Each game is a championship game, and each point matters.”

Follow Cole Kundich on Twitter @colesportsUO

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Cole Kundich

Cole Kundich