The Ducks’ achilles heel last season was their offense. Despite having its best season in over 10 years, Oregon left multiple wins on the board from a lack of scoring.
So far this year, Oregon’s offense has done a complete 180. Heading into Sunday’s match with the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks at Papé field, they’d scored seven goals through two games.
The Ducks continued their red-hot offensive start with a 4-2 win over NAU. They now have 11 goals through three games after scoring 12 all of last season.
Just 36 seconds into the game, Oregon struck first. After a sloppy first Lumberjack possession, fifth-year senior Eden Hardy took the ball coast-to-coast to give Oregon a 1-0 advantage.
Hardy’s early goal energized the crowd and the rest of the Ducks roster. But Northern Arizona led a swift response.
At the 11-minute mark, Abby Donathan sent a beautiful cross through Oregon’s defense, and Riley Mitchell capitalized with a perfect shot to the center of the net to knot the game at one.
Oregon had several chances to respond after Donathan’s goal but fouls ruined the Ducks’ momentum each time. The Ducks were the most highly penalized team in the Pac-12 last year, and through three games this year, they haven’t done much improvement.
At the 20-minute mark, Northern Arizona’s third free-kick of the game ended up in the hands of true freshman goalkeeper Maddy Goldberg. Goldberg got the start on Sunday after Leah Freeman injured herself against San Francisco last week.
Just under ten minutes later, the Lumberjacks found the back of the net yet again. After the ball snuck into Oregon’s box, Kylie Kapustka chipped the ball perfectly over Goldberg’s fingertips to give the Lumberjacks a 2-1 lead.
From the 33-36 minute mark, Northern Arizona had five throw-ins. Each was snubbed out quickly by Oregon, and it was clear that the Ducks’ defense was not going to let the Lumberjacks find the back of the net again.
Oregon pressured Northern Arizona persistently for the next ten minutes until finally, they broke through. Chai Cortez sent a perfect cross to Alice Barbieri who headed it to Kaitlyn Paculba, who headed it past the Lumberjack goalkeeper. The goal marked the first for the Ducks off a set piece all season, but most importantly, it tied the game at two.
Despite Oregon finding more shots on goal and controlling the ball for the majority of the half, the game was still tied at two heading into halftime.
NAU came out firing in the second half, but Goldberg and the Oregon defense had a response for each attack.
At the 56:46 mark, after an impressive Goldberg save, Hardy again took the ball coast-to-coast, this time finding Ally Cook alone in front of the net. Hardy chipped the ball to Cook on the run, and Cook headed it to the top center of the goal, past the NAU goalkeeper to give Oregon the 3-2 advantage.
Oregon continued flirting with its fourth goal for the next ten minutes until NAU finally made a change. True freshman Trinity Corcoran was inserted at goalkeeper despite having a significantly worse save percentage than Natalie Manzo, the starter.
The Ducks weren’t able to take advantage of the substitution immediately. The NAU defense suffocated Oregon for the next 15 minutes, shutting the door on any crosses and prohibiting the Ducks from having even the slightest of room to work with.
The Lumberjacks picked the wrong team to get in a defensive battle with, however. The Ducks defense, which set multiple records last year, clamped NAU for the entirety of the second half. Since the Lumberjack’s second goal at the 28th minute, the Oregon defense hardly let NAU into the box.
In the 83rd minute, Oregon added some insurance. Hardy meticulously navigated her way through the NAU defense, juking out multiple Lumberjacks in the process, until she sent a perfect shot to the right side of the net past Corcoran’s outstretched arm. With that, Oregon doubled up NAU, 4-2.
Hardy had two goals and an assist on the day, marking one of her best games as a Duck in her five years with the program.
Both teams would hold each other scoreless for the rest of the game to give Oregon the 4-2 victory. After last week’s tie against the San Francisco Dons, this win moves Oregon to 2-0-1 on the young season. They’ll be back in action Friday, Sep. 3, against UC Santa Barbara in Eugene at 7 p.m.