With the Ducks fighting for their NCAA Tournament lives, they needed to come out with maximum energy on Thursday night. Despite doing so for much of the match, they dropped a 1-0 contest to the 11th-ranked USC Trojans at Pape Field on Thursday.
The first five minutes were dominated by USC, but the Ducks were able to fend off the attack fairly well. USC forward Natalie Jacobs had a powerful shot early, but it sailed wide right of the goal. Oregon showed resilience after the first few Trojan attacks; the offense had several through-balls into the box that were broken up by USC.
The back-and-forth play continued when USC’s Alea Hyatt had a good opportunity from the top of the box, but her shot sailed high. As the game progressed, the Ducks showed promise, and they were able to match the attack of USC. They controlled the ball well, and had multiple breaks into the USC defense, but failed to get any shots on goal. The Trojans seemed to be playing conservitavely and waiting for the right moment to strike.
Ducks’ midfielder Zoe Hasenhauer had some opportunities later in the first half, but her passes and lobs seemed to be just too strong, and fell at the feet of the Trojan defense.
In the 36th minute, Oregon saw an opportunity with a corner kick, and booted the ball to the middle of the box. After bouncing around in the middle of the field, the ball was kicked outside to Caitlin Shaw who rocketed a shot off the crossbar and out of bounds. This was Oregon’s best scoring chance of the game, and it seemed to give the Ducks even more of an energy boost while they outplayed the Trojans for the rest of the first half.
Neither team seemed to be able to adjust after halftime, and the 0-0 deadlock continued. It wasn’t until the 78th minute that the USC attack became too much for Oregon, when Penelope Hocking scored on a cross from Natalie Jacobs. It was a slight slip-up from an Oregon defense that had been solid all game long, and while the Trojans took just a one-goal lead, the deficit seemed insurmountable.
Oregon refused to lay down, but the USC defense was too tough to crack. The best second-half scoring chance for the Ducks came in the 85th minute, when Zoe Hasenauer rifled a shot to the top of the goal, only to see USC keeper Kaylie Collins make a spectacular leaping save off of her right foot.
It was a disappointing loss for the Ducks, not only because it was such a well-played game but because it most likely eliminates them from tournament contention.
“We made every play personal. We wanted to take ownership of everything that happened on the field,” Oregon keeper Katelyn Carter said. “We fought until the end, even in the last few minutes, we didn’t quit.”
The senior finished the day with six saves.
While it was their sixth loss in nine conference games on the year, the Ducks still have a lot of positives to take away from the loss.
“We challenged our team to be grittier, head coach Kat Mertz said. “I was really proud of our overall effort, and my heart hurts for the team.”
The Ducks look forward to their last home game of the year on Sunday, when they will face UCLA at 1 p.m..