The Oregon Women’s Lacrosse team played their season opener at the newly constructed Papé Field last Saturday against the Dartmouth Big Green. The only previous match the Ducks had against the Big Green was in March of 2011, which ended in a 12-10 loss for the Ducks. Nine players from the 2011 season returned to take on Dartmouth this weekend.
Compared to their old grass field, the new vibrant green and yellow turf adds an aspect to the game that the Ducks are not used to, resulting in a faster paced game with even more importance on getting possession of ground balls. Oregon senior Bridget Morrison returns this season with 76 career ground balls and ranking 9th in Duck history.
The Ducks come back for the 2013 season as the defending champion of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, with 18 returning players and 12 newcomers. They held a perfect 7-0 record in their 2012 regular season and went on to beat Berkeley and Stanford in the conference tournament, advancing them to the NCAA play-in match. They fought relentlessly against Navy all the way to overtime where they ultimately lost 10-9.
The NCAA had ranked Dartmouth 12th and Oregon 22nd in the nation, foreshadowing a hard fought match from both sides. A rainy and cold warm-up in Eugene led to a sunny start at game time when Dartmouth took the draw control. Oregon came out with a burning desire for redemption and got a shot off in the first minute and a half of the game. The Ducks worked with a two behind, four up top, and one inside offensive setup, working the ball around the circle until they found an opening where midfielder Nikki Puszcz scored the first goal of the game in less than three minutes.
Dartmouth rallied back in the following five minutes with two goals by Hana Bowers. She shot high-to-low trickery shots to make it past Oregon’s goalie Caroline Federighi. Federighi is coming off of a record-setting season in 2012 with a save percentage of .502 and 228 total saves placing her at second in Oregon history after Anna Poponyak who had a total of 514 saves throughout her career.
Midway through the first half the score stood tied at 2-2 against Dartmouth, the game being evenly matched with possession on both ends of the field. Dartmouth demonstrated a great amount of patience in their offensive strategy; waiting for specific cuts and shot opportunities mostly from inside the eight-meter. Big Green controlled the ball for a majority of the end of the half, getting two shots on the goal and both hitting the post and returning into their possession. Midfielder Carly O’Connell fought for a groundball and won back possession for the Ducks. Oregon transferred the ball down the field and had a run towards goal but was shut down by Dartmouth defense right before the end of the half.
At halftime Oregon and Dartmouth were tied up in score 2-2, turnovers 5-5, and ground balls 7-7 with Dartmouth having only one more shot than Oregon, at 10-9. The Ducks come back from the half with a strong start and put two points on the board in the first seven minutes. Dartmouth changed their defensive setup of “zone defense,” in which a player marks one person and moves with them to cover a certain section of the field. Despite this change the Ducks still got in a goal, retaliated quickly by a Dartmouth goal. The second half of the game continued in this back-and-forth scoring manner, keeping the game high paced and challenging for both teams as the rain fell relentlessly on Papé Field. With six minutes left the score was 7-7 and despite attempts from both teams no goals were scored, bringing the game into overtime.
Despite the cold downpour the fans stuck around to see the result of this well-fought match. Dartmouth and Oregon traded off possession of the ball throughout the first three-minute period of overtime. The Ducks got a shot off with 10 seconds left but it was saved by Dartmouth’s goalie. The anticipation in the stands ran high for the second three-minute period of overtime. Dartmouth took the draw control and got a pass off to an open player who was positioned outside the 12 meter with no defense in front of her. Two of the Ducks defensive players hustled back to block the shot and the ball was taken behind the cage. Dartmouth set up their offense and held the ball to run down the clock waiting for a last shot opportunity. With a minute left Dartmouth faked a pass to a player, shifting the Oregon defense and leaving the back door shot open for Dartmouth’s player Liz Calby who scored (7-8). Oregon played the remainder of overtime a man down due to a previous yellow card and despite a ruthless fight they could not regain possession of the ball. This game came down to the luck of the draw, or more accurately the winner of the draw, as most equally matched lacrosse games do.
The Ducks had less than twenty-four hours to rest up and prepare for their game the following day against the Cincinnati Bearcats. Returning to the field on Sunday the players and fans were greeted by a sunny winter day at Papé Field.
Oregon started strong against Cincinnati, gaining possession off the draw and powering two goals into the net within the first five minutes. They continued to hold the ball on Cincinnati’s side of the field while implementing a settled and widespread offense. This led to multiple attempts at isolation plays, resulting in one goal for Oregon (3-0). The Bearcats made a few attempts towards Oregon’s side of the field, but the Ducks picked both off during scrambled battles for the ground ball. These turnovers solidified the Ducks dominance in this game and halfway through the first period the score was 5-0 Ducks.
With 13 minutes left in the first half Cincinnati’s Megan Bell put a point on the board for the Bearcats with an assist coming from Ashley Helmrath who was positioned behind the net (5-1). The Ducks quickly regained control with a score off a low bounce shot by sophomore Casey Brogan (6-1). The Ducks continued their use of the clustered offense at the top of the circle with girls peeling off for open shot opportunities. Kate Cathell scored her third personal goal of the game off of a crease roll followed by a quick and efficient goal by the Bearcats, bringing the score to 8-2 Ducks at halftime.
Ducks goalie Sallibeth Finnegan switched in for Caroline Federighi in the second half and made two impressive saves for the Ducks. Cincinnati’s offense pushed towards the goal, keeping the majority of possession in the first ten minutes of the second half. They demonstrated an unrelenting desire to stay in the game but were continually shut down by Oregon defense until attacker Marissa Pierson got a goal off of a free position shot (8-3). After this goal the Ducks brought up their tempo and scored three goals in less than three minutes. This rally sparked intensity within both teams, resulting in more physical play on the field.
Cincinnati scored once more, but Oregon retaliated with two goals. Despite the large gap in the score both teams fought hard throughout the second half and Oregon did not hold back. With nine minutes left the Ducks were up 14-4 and the Bearcats put on a greater amount of pressure. With five minutes remaining the plays became forced and there were multiple fouls from both teams. After a shot hit post and there were several transitions across the field Oregon put two more points on the board. Successful passing was the key to possession during this high paced end of the game. Despite the pressure Cincinnati placed on the Ducks, Oregon was able to move the ball from player to player avoiding turnovers in the last minute of the game the Bearcats gained possession on offense but could not place the ball in the net before time ran out. A valiant fight from both teams ended the sunny day on Papé Field with an Oregon victory 16-5.