Following a difficult start to Pac-12 play with losses to Stanford and USC, things did not get any easier for the Oregon soccer team against UCLA, ranked No. 11 nationally in RPI.
In a Sunday afternoon contest at Papé Field, the Ducks battled, but came up short, losing 3-2 to the Bruins. The loss means Oregon is still looking for its first win in Pac-12 play.
“This one hurts. Thought we had a chance,” head coach Kat Mertz said. “We stuck to the game plan and executed it very well.”
The Ducks came flying out of the gate with an impressive left-foot shot by freshman Kyra Fawcett in the second minute, with another great chance created by Fawcett in the 17th minute. Though the Ducks have eight games remaining in the season, they’ve already scored the program’s most goals in a season since 2012.
On the early goal, Fawcett said that once she had the space, “I knew that I could take it, and I knew that I had that shot.”
A little over midway through the half, UCLA created an opportunity, and a few funky bounces lead to an own goal by Oregon in the 26th minute to tie the game at one. Rain began to fall before intermission.
With both teams exchanging possessions in the midfield to start the half, UCLA began to bring the heat in the 68th minute, leading to a go-ahead goal by Gabbi Miranda in the 72nd minute to put the Bruins up 2-1. A scary scene followed shortly when UCLA forward Darian Jenkins was injured. After a delay in the game, she departed in an ambulance. She is UCLA’s leading scorer this season.
“Really unfortunate,” said Mertz. “She’s a talented player, I hope she gets better soon.”
When play resumed, it was a back-and-forth battle in the final 18 minutes. In the 79th minute, Oregon went on an offensive attack. The ball found its way to midfielder Abby Morrow, who then struck it into the back of the net to tie the game at 2-2. Even after the injury to one of their leaders and the equalizer by the Ducks, UCLA kept battling, and scored what proved to be the game-winning goal in the 86th minute from Claire Winter. The goal was her first of the season.
The Ducks will depart Eugene to play Colorado on Thursday afternoon.
Oregon has had a tough opening to its Pac-12 season against three ranked teams. The schedule will begin to lighten up, but the Ducks know better than to take their foot off the pedal.
“The Pac-12 is unbelievable, this is why we play, for the hard games and the grit,” Morrow said.
Follow Cole Kundich on Twitter @colesportsUO