The University of Oregon women’s soccer team opened the 2012-13 sports calendar with a 2-0 blanking of the University of Alabama-Birmingham and looked quite comfortable doing so in their new digs. A crowd of 758 christened the new Pape` Field and watched freshmen Kristen Parr score twice in her collegiate debut.
Impressively the Ducks didn’t allow a shot by the Blazers in the second half to roll to a the victory.
Kristen Parr was not the only freshmen to shine today for the Ducks; both Mariah Powers and Maryn Beutler added an assist and two shots. Powers used her speed from the back-line all afternoon to create chances for herself and teammates.
Oregon hopes to make the most of this new ability. “One of the main things we are trying work on this year,” Powers said after the game, “is getting our outside backs into the attack more….and make the field bigger so we have more room to play.”
Oregon certainly took advantage of that open space to create numerous early chances. The speed advantage was apparent from the starting whistle as sophomore Bri Pugh used her own athleticism to creawte early havoc in the Blazer’s defense, setting up Kristen Parr for the goal in the fourth minute. Powers sent Pugh on a beautiful run to get the play started from the back-line.
Pugh was forced off the pitch due to an ankle injury and for the moment the momentum began to swing toward UAB. Oregon’s defense looked shaky, allowing two excellent scoring chances for the Blazers in the middle of the half but Abby Steele proved to be up to the task, making clean saves on both shots. Steele finished the day with a clean sheet and 5 saves. Strength and composure on the ball will be keys for the Ducks moving forward as the competition jumps up a notch when they play the University of Portland next weekend.
The Ducks came out inspired for the second half and took control of the game immediately.
Seniors Scout Libke and Mo Fitzgerald effectively controlled the midfield versus a very physical Blazer team. Using a new scheme built around shorter and quicker passing, the Ducks had great success holding possession and pushing forward when the space was there.
Yet another freshman midfielder, Maryn Beutler, got into the act, delivering a long ball down the right sideline to Parr for the game sealing goal in the 60th minute. “I kinda got selfish in the end… I’m taking it,” said Parr. The Blazer’s defense certainly couldn’t stop her as she juked three defenders en route to her second marker.
“I think we got better as the game went on” said head coach Tara Erickson. Oregon’s depth was key to the win with Erickson using nine substitutes to keep the pressure on. “I was really pleased with the level of intensity that we kept throughout the 90 minutes” Erickson continued.
That defensive intensity kept Duck goaltender Abby Steele from facing a shot in the second half.
With the 2-nil lead, Oregon yielded few possessions to the Blazers and salted away a nice home opening win.
The Ducks next take on the University of Portland Saturday the 25 in Portland at 7pm. The Pilots also won their opener, and are nearly unbeatable on their home pitch. The Pilots should offer more of a measure of what the upcoming PAC 12 season has to offer, but Sunday was a pretty good start.
– Justin Pluid