The Oregon men’s club lacrosse team moved one step closer to repeating as conference champions over the weekend.

The No. 16 Ducks trounced Montana 34-3 Saturday afternoon at Nex-Turf Field on campus in a first-round matchup of the Pacific Northwest Collegiate Lacrosse League conference tournament.

The top-seeded Ducks (9-6, 3-0 PNCLL South) have won six games in a row and next face Oregon State in Wilsonville on Saturday for the [email protected]@that’s where I’m [email protected]@

“We just want to send a message that we own this conference, and we’re coming back to defend the title,” senior midfielder Brook Pittenger said. “We’re not going to take any games off, no matter who they’re against.”@@

Oregon opened scoring with a goal by senior midfielder Kevin Clark 1:30 into the game and never looked back. The Ducks jumped out to a 10-0 lead before the Grizzlies (4-8, 1-2 PNCLL North) finally made it onto the scoreboard, netting back-to-back goals with less than 30 seconds left in the first [email protected]@

Montana midfielder Kent Davis penetrated the Ducks’ defense after picking up a ground ball in the midfield and gave Montana its first score of the contest. Attacker Jeremy Brown followed with a laser-beam shot from 20 feet out that shortened the Ducks lead to 10-2 with five seconds left in the quarter.

Oregon coach Joe Kerwin attributed the surrendered goals to a lack of focus on his team’s behalf.

“Those are the small things that we need to talk about a little more,” Kerwin said. “Good teams take advantage of those.”

The Ducks recovered superbly in the second quarter, scoring seven straight goals before the Grizzlies answered with a score at the 4:20 mark. Montana would not find the back of the net for the rest of the afternoon.

Oregon scored once more and went into intermission with a stout 18-3 advantage. The Ducks emptied their bench after that, with reserves seeing most of the action in the second half.

Pittenger had the hot hand early, scoring three of Oregon’s first 10 goals. He and junior midfielder Spencer Robertson each finished with a game-high four goals, while Clark added a goal and four assists.

Freshman attacker Justin Straker and senior attacker Robert McLellarn each scored three goals in second-half duty, while Straker added two assists.

In total, 17 different Oregon players tallied goals in the game.

“We weren’t trying to run up the score in the second half,” Pittenger said. “We ran everyone we could. I think this just shows on all levels we’re coming together, and we have a deep team this year.”

Oregon’s offense controlled possession for much of the game, leaving its defense under minimal pressure. Even with Montana’s early goals, Kerwin said he was generally pleased with his defense’s performance.

“Our defense did a great job of getting us the ball,” sophomore attacker Chris Osip said. “Honestly, they controlled the tempo of the game, and it started with them. They weren’t giving up anything easy, and from there we were able to dominate on offense.”

Despite the lopsided score, Kerwin played down the notion that this outcome was meant to be any type of statement to the rest of the conference.

“We’re not really focused on the other teams,” Kerwin said. “We do believe this is our conference, and we’re just going to approach every game like we did (last Saturday): with focus.”

Oregon previously topped Oregon State 13-7 in its regular season finale. Should the Ducks beat the Beavers (4-7, 1-2 PNCLL South) again Saturday, they would encounter the winner of the Idaho-Simon Fraser contest in the championship on Sunday. Like Oregon, Simon Fraser cruised in its first-round game, pummeling Portland State 36-3.

An Oregon-Simon Fraser championship would be a rematch of last year’s conference title game, which the Ducks won 14-8. Oregon also bested Simon Fraser 22-14 at home last month. Conference champions earn automatic berths into the Men’s College Lacrosse Association national tournament in Denver.

“We’ve been talking about playing our best this time of the year,” Kerwin said after the Montana win. “We’re doing that. We’re getting better every week. I think this week we got a little better. And we plan to get better again next week.”

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