by Rob Moseley
There are better places to be than down four goals less than five minutes into a game, but there Oregon lacrosse found itself Friday. The Ducks were in a hole, although plenty of time remained to dig out.
Instead, a see-saw battle ensued, with Denver completing an undefeated run through the MPSF regular season with an 11-5 victory over Oregon at Papé Field. The Pioneers will be the No. 1 seed into the conference tournament for the second year in a row, on their home turf beginning next week.
The Ducks (10-6, 6-2 MPSF) will now play Colorado for the No. 3 seed in the new six-team format. Should the Ducks win, they will face sixth-seeded San Diego State in the first round on Thursday. Oregon beat the Aztecs 13-6 in San Diego this past Sunday.
First, the Ducks will host their Senior Day, against Colorado at Papé Field this Sunday at noon.
"I would think this group of seniors is going to be pretty ticked about this game," UO coach Jen Beck said after the loss to Denver. "I would anticipate they're not going to be all about celebration, they're going to be coming out with something to prove."
The Ducks needed that sort of spirit Friday, with a chance to stay in the running for the MPSF regular-season title and the No. 1 tournament seed. Instead, Rachael McKinnon scored a natural hat trick for the Pioneers within the first 2:47 of the game.
Oregon got goals from Olivia Pyne and Shannon Propst in the first half, but each time Denver quickly answered to take a 6-2 lead into halftime. Two UO goals in a span of 17 seconds — by Pyne and Nikki Puszcz — got the Ducks within 7-4 early in the second half, but Denver made effective use of a timeout and then scored a quick goal, again denying Oregon any momentum.
"It was hard for us to get it," Beck said. "It's potent when it's there, but we didn't bring it for 60 minutes."
Puszcz added a second goal with 17:44 remaining to get Oregon within 8-5, but Denver controlled the ball for much of the game's remainder.
"Give them credit — they came out and were attacking everything," Beck said. "That's what we talked about doing; unfortunately, they did it more so than we did. …
"We just came out scared. We stayed tight and we didn't loosen up."
Oregon actually outshot the Pioneers, 21-20. But Denver keeper Hannah Hook, a first-team all-conference pick last spring, made 14 saves, including nine in the second half.