Oregon soccer took down USC 1-0 in the fifth minute of overtime Sunday at Pape Field. The winning goal, off the foot of freshman Kristen Parr, gave the Ducks their first Pac-12 victory and improved them to 6-6-2 overall, 1-3-1 in the Pac-12.
The Ducks dominated the game in every facet but struggled to find the back of the net despite 21 shots on goal. The defense and midfielders came up huge in the game, almost always keeping the ball out of Oregon’s defensive zone and continually giving the offense good looks.
“It helps the offense stay in the swing of things, especially when they know that we’re supporting them in the back,” senior Lauren Thompson said of the defensive effort. “That’s what we try and do. We try and start the attack in the back and be a big support back there. It’s great to get a win. We’ve been playing well as a team, but moral victories aren’t quite as great as real victories.”
One player that came out ready to play 90-plus minutes of aggressive soccer was freshman Maryn Beutler, who relentlessly went after the ball and took four shots, only one short of game leader, Scout Libke.
“We needed to freaking score!” Beutler said after the game. “That’s all I could think about the whole game. I wanted to score so bad and I wanted other people to as well, and I mean we had 20 shots on goal. We finally got one, but it was kind of ridiculous.”
The goal came as a relief to everyone due to the recent scoring drought. After a hot offensive start to the season, mostly due to the high-scoring cadence of Kristen Parr, the Ducks netted only one goal in their previous five games.
“It’s pretty amazing considering the rest of the schedule this season,” midfielder Scout Libke said of finishing a tough conference stretch. “We’re not going to be playing the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the nation again. That was the most important part, getting this win today, after two really tough games. The rest of the season we can really focus and put those couple weekends behind us.”
Turning Point. After 90 minutes of strong play from the Ducks, the score was still tied at nil. Given recent history, the game seemed destined to end in another 0-0 tie. In the last 10 minutes of regulation both teams resorted to lethargic play and seemed content with a conclusion in overtime. Once in overtime, the Ducks got their fire back, winning the shots-on-goal battle 5-0.
Five minutes in, Bri Pugh took off down the sideline and flicked a pass parallel to the goal line right to Kira Wagoner, who struck the ball to the top left corner of the goal post. The ball bounced straight to Parr, a player with a knack for being in the right place at the right time, who knocked it in.
After the game, Parr was her usual modest self: “Kira deserves all the credit. She turned, she shot it, and I just happened to be at the right spot at the right time. For me, it was a complete team effort. A goal is a goal. My name will get credit for it but I don’t deserve credit for it. Everyone worked for it.”
On the horizon. With a conference win, the Ducks have finally shaken a rather large gorilla off of their backs, but the light that is tournament play is growing more and more dim. To have a shot, they almost certainly need to win five to six of their remaining seven games and the offensive struggles do not disappear after one of 21 shots on goal finds the net.
One thing that brings a great deal of optimism to the team is their schedule from here on out. With the top teams behind them, they can focus on a friendlier Pac-12 schedule.
“We gain more confidence going forward,” head coach Tara Erickson said of the win in relation to the remainder of the season. “But I think that the kids know that we can play, particularly for the returners, that we can compete with any of these teams and I think we will have confidence going forward.”
The Ducks will look to carry momentum over to the next game, when they play Utah on Friday in Salt Lake City.