It is important to remember that the Pac-10 Conference is traditionally strongest in its non-revenue sports. Women’s soccer is no exception. The conference sent eight teams to the NCAA tournament
in 2009, and three of those teams advanced to the third round or beyond.
One of those teams in the Sweet 16 was Oregon State. The Ducks (4-5-2) will have their work cut out for them on Friday night at Pape Field, facing a program that had eight more wins in 2009 than it did in 2008.
The No. 23 Oregon State Beavers (8-1-1) have allowed only 0.5 goals against per contest, thanks in large part to junior goalkeeper Colleen Boyd, who has played every minute in net for the Beavers this season. Fellow junior Melinda Ingalls adds the necessary offensive pressure, and her five goals on the season pace the squad. After seeing Oregon State play twice already this season, Oregon head coach Tara Erickson knows what makes the Beavers such a strong team.
“They have a solid nucleus of a team, and they stay very composed,” Erickson said. “They have a knack for scoring late, so we need to score early and often against them.”
Of Oregon State’s 20 goals this season, 16 have come in the second half. The program’s lone loss was at UC Irvine. Since the defeat, however, the Beavers topped Weber State 3-2 in Ogden, Utah, before traversing the state to beat Utah 1-0. In the team’s latest win, the Beavers gained the edge in the 89th minute of play with an Ingalls strike to seal the match.
Facing the Beavers on any field is a daunting task, but the Ducks seek to capitalize on (finally) getting a match at home after a long road stretch. Erickson thinks home field could be the edge her team needs.
“We haven’t been home in a three weekends,” Erickson said. “Portland is the most difficult road venue to play at in the country, so we are very happy to be home.”
Oregon is forced to adapt after losing junior Taylor Jones to injury against Portland. If there is a silver lining for the Ducks, it’s that they are familiar with personnel moving around on the pitch. Sophomore Scout Libke made it clear that the show must go on.
“People have moved around a lot this year with injuries and red cards,” Libke said. “A lot of people are able to play anywhere on the field. We need to be able to do that.”
The stalwart atop Oregon’s formation will remain Jen Stoltenberg. The senior tallied the Ducks’ lone goal against Santa Clara in a 2-1 loss as well as the squad’s only score in a 4-1 loss at Portland. Stoltenberg now has eight goals this season, half of Oregon’s total scoring output.
Oregon narrowly missed the NCAA tournament last year after a 1-8 Pac-10 campaign, despite an almost perfect preseason. This season, the Ducks hope matches against Santa Clara and then-No. 4 Portland will more accurately let the team know where they stand heading into conference play. Junior goalkeeper Cody Miles put a positive spin on Oregon’s most recent road matches.
“We’re so good right now,” Miles said. “We haven’t quite convinced ourselves of that because of the two (most recent) losses, but I do think we will show how good we are on Friday.”
Coach Erickson acknowledged that Friday night against Oregon State is a key match, which could give her team confidence through the Pac-10 schedule. The Beavers, under third-year head coach Linus Rhode, have even improved on their top-notch 2009 season, but the Ducks know they can get the job done.
“We frustrated Portland in the first half … After shutting down a team like that, we know we can get revenge on OSU,” Libke said.
Regardless, the Civil War is the Civil War, and Oregon aims to defeat an Oregon State squad they have not beaten since 2006.
“Friday night, Civil War, doesn’t get much better than that,” Erickson said.