EUGENE, Ore.- The University of Oregon soccer team (5-4-1, 0-1 Pac-12) had the eighth-largest crowd all-time at Pape' Field (1, 207) behind them, but were not able to pull off the victory as they fell to University of Utah (5-4-1, 1-0 Pac-12), 2-0, in the inaugural Pac-12 opener Friday night in Eugene.
With the loss, it is the first time that the Ducks have tasted defeat at home and it also represents the first goals of the season that UO has given up at Pape' Field. Oregon shut out its first three home opponents by a tally of 4-0.
The first stanza of action showcased gutsy, aggressive play by not just the Duck backline, but by all of the Oregon squad, which was a huge part of the reason that the first half was scoreless after 45 minutes of play.
Freshman Kiyomi Cook fought for space on the left side of the box and sent UO's first shot of the match off at 8:20, but the Utes' equally physical backline was able to block the shot attempt.
UU's Erin Dalley created her own shot a couple of minutes later, but it wandered wide, giving the ball back to UO.
Oregon came back down and set up the offense, allowing junior Julie Armstrong to get her first shot of the night, but it went wide right. The opportunity was the first of three straight excellent looks that head coach Tara Erickson would have liked to find some real estate in the back of the UO net.
Following an Utah foul, freshman Kelsey Foo, who was one of seven freshmen to get the start in the Pac-12 opener, took her own look at goal, but hers went wide, as well.
Junior Maddy Mercier had the next chance to put the Ducks ahead at the 25:39 mark, but couldn't quite hook it in as frustration set in for the Oregon offense.
The most encouraging mark of the first half was the 30:51 mark when freshman Bri Pugh entered the match after not having seen action since the New Hampshire match.
Both goalkeepers traded saves as the first half of play ended.
The physical nature of the first half play carried over into the second half as within seconds of it starting, Armstrong picked up the match's only yellow card.
But the Utes wasted no time getting on the board as what appeared to be a mess in front of the Utah goal translated into Harley Spier's second goal of the season and first of the match at the 48:18 mark to put the Utes ahead, 1-0.
Pugh came back and attempted to answer the goal with one of her own a couple of minutes later, but it went wide.
At the 55:56 mark, Utah added one more to their tally as Dalley found Leslie Muirhead crossing at the top of the box to extend UU's lead to 2-0 and secure the victory.
Oregon attempted four more times to avoid the shutout, but was unsuccessful in the attempts.
Freshman Abby Steele (1-4-1) picked up the loss as Hannah Turpen (5-4) earned the win.
Armstrong led Oregon with three shot attempts, including two shot on goal.
The Ducks regroup and return to action next Friday (Sept. 30) at 5 p.m. against UCLA in Los Angeles, Calif.