The end of the 2018 Oregon lacrosse season comes with an exodus of six starting seniors, including senior attack Jill Zubillaga, who earned All-Pac-12 first team honors and IWLCA All-Region second team honors, senior attackers Mariah Gatti and Cambi Cukar and senior goalie Brittany Read, who all earned Pac-12 second team honors.
The Ducks, led in points by junior attacker Shannon Williams for the second year in a row, tied their all-time single-season points record of 336. Williams scored 74, while Zubillaga followed with 61 of her own.
Zubillaga, who started in every game this season and broke the UO single-season record for goals with 57, said one of the things she will remember most from her four years with the Ducks was a senior night 18-11 win against 16-ranked USC. Zubillaga, who put in three goals, scored the Ducks’ first point, tying the game early. Oregon never lost the lead again.
“That was probably one the most exciting games I’ve ever played in — to upset a ranked opponent like that,” Zubillaga said. “To do it with such conviction was awesome. And it was senior day so that makes it that much better.”
Overall, Oregon went 9-9 on the season, 4-6 in conference play, and entered the inaugural Pac-12 Tournament as a four seed.
At the tournament, Oregon won its first game, avenging an earlier regular-season 15-13 loss to California, this time outscoring the Bears 22-9 and winning the first-ever Pac-12 tournament game.
Williams, who earned Pac-12 second team honors said: “I think our execution was there and definitely our effort and just the want to play together. It was fun; it was just a super fun game.”
After a hot first half against Colorado in the semifinals, the Ducks fell 16-6 to the Buffs. Williams said the team was unable to capitalize offensively and make completions. Regardless, head coach Katrina Dowd is proud of the team’s progress, recognizing that learning to compete at the highest level doesn’t happen without a process.
“The players have bought into wanting to hold that Pac-12 trophy and with that comes a pretty hard journey in terms of work ethic and competition,” Dowd said. “They finally got a taste of what it’s like to win a big game.”
With half of the Ducks starting lineup graduating, the team will need to count on returning starters including Williams, junior midfielder Madeline Reece and junior defender Mandi Trostle.
The Ducks, who have nine incoming freshman, are returning all of their starting defenders, providing some stability while giving space for players to step up offensively.
“I’m really excited to see a lot of the players step up their game,” Williams said. “I think right now is the perfect opportunity because we don’t have people who are set in their roles. We have a lot of dynamic people.”
Follow Sierra Webster on Twitter @WebsterSierraE