The Women’s Lacrosse team stepped back out on Papé Field this Saturday, looking to continue their seven home game streak. Their East Coast opponent, the High Point Panthers, return to battle again this season after a 13-10 win over the Ducks last year. Last season’s match against the Panthers marked the only contest against the Big South Conference in Oregon Lacrosse history. The Ducks built intensity during their warm-up, as did the Panthers, promising an engaging match in Eugene; little did the teams know how tight this game would prove to be.
The Ducks dominated off the draw, and possession shifted between both teams in the lively first few minutes of the match. Despite the turnovers and drive from both teams, the Panthers finished off their offensive plays and gained two goals in the first ten minutes of the match. Meanwhile, the Ducks had four shots on goal, but Panther goalie Anna Wallingford, Big South All-Conference First-Team at the position last season, saved every shot for her team.
Ducks midfielder Nikki Puszcz put one point on the board for the Ducks from inside the 8 meter. She has a .639 shot average, and is one of Oregon’s players to watch for electrifying and critical plays this season.
The Panthers ran a unique offense that the Ducks have not seen yet in the 2013 season. They worked the ball around to the top of the circle, testing Oregon’s defense for an opening. If they were unsuccessful in breaking through the defense, they passed the ball to an adjacent player. The ball passer then set a screen for the girl they passed to, looking to make a lane for her to run to goal. The Ducks caught on to this strategy midway through the first half, and Oregon goalie Caroline Federighi saved two dynamic shots off of this play.
The Ducks defense held up strongly in the first half, keeping the game very low scoring. Going into the second half, an area of improvement for the Oregon was focusing on possession in the midfield in order to have more opportunities on offense. Shannon Propst did just this early on in the first half and used the speed she is celebrated for to transfer the ball across the field for the Ducks.
Senior Kate Cathell fired a hard shot and scored unassisted for the Ducks, followed a quick goal by Shannon Propst. Duck fans were rejuvenated and the classic “O” cheer emanated from the stands as the scoreboard displayed the tight 4-4 tally. With a tied-up but low-scoring game the speed picked up, and both teams showed immense efforts to maintain possession, especially in transitions, which proved to be the determining factor for the match.
After a Panthers goal, Oregon retaliated by gaining possession of the ball and Carly O’Connell fired a grounded shot into the lower left corner for another point. With thirteen minutes to go the Ducks continued to step up their intensity; capitalizing on mistakes in the High Point defense resulting in another goal (6-5). As time ran down, High Point called a time out as the energy continued to rise on the field and in the stands.
Oregon changed up their gameplay, by trying to hold the ball with ten minutes left. They keep possession and took their time on offense while the clock continued to tick. After two different timeouts for High Point injuries, the Panthers’ Alec Perry quickly got a goal in the net (6-6). There was no room for relaxing on either team as time ran down. Oregon played man-down following a penalty call with three minutes to go.
In the last minute of the tied-up match the Ducks had offensive control and tension ran high as Oregon’s offense spread out waited for the right opportunity to go to goal. As the clock ticked, the Ducks couldn’t catch a break in the strong Panther defense. With both teams exhausted, yet resiliently fighting as the clock counted down to the last ten seconds, Nikki Puszcz passed to Carly O’Connell. O’Connell fired and scored the winning goal with only four seconds remaining.
This victorious match demonstrated the Ducks’ aptitude in focusing on what areas needed adjustment as they were down two points at half, only to turn the match in their favor. Oregon’s fierce but composed demeanor kept them competing in the close match, and their efforts paid off in a celebrated triumph against High Point.
(Top photo courtesy Gary Breedlove Photography)