EUGENE, Ore. -- The University of Oregon women’s soccer team stunned No. 12 California 1-0 Monday night behind a game-winning blast from Maryn Beutler and Abby Steele’s penalty kick save. In Oregon’s (4-9-3, 2-5-1) final game at Papé Field, Beutler bagged a 55th minute goal to seal the Duck’s (4-9-3, 2-5-1) first victory over a top 25 team since 2011.
Oregon earned its fifth shutout of the season on defense and was superb building on possession moving forward, playing its best game of the season. Head coach Kat Mertz earned her first victory over a ranked foe at Oregon. The Golden Bears (9-3-5, 2-3-3) are ranked 12th in the latest NSCAA/Continental Tire Poll.
The game boiled down to two critical moments early in the second half. First, Steele denied Kaitlyn Fitzpatrick’s penalty kick attempt with a diving save in the 50th minute. Beutler scored the game-winner five minutes later, sending a shot from about 25 yards out to the bottom corner of the net, sending Papé Field into a frenzy. (Video Highlight).
After pushing eighth-ranked Stanford to the brink in a 2-1 loss Friday, the Ducks picked up where they left off. This time, Oregon was rewarded for its effort and earned one of the most impressive victories in recent program history. Seniors Achijah Berry and Gabbie Lindeman were playing their final home game of their careers.
“I thought we played really well against Stanford on Friday, so it was nice to see us continue where we left off,” said Mertz following the dramatic victory. “We’re still learning how to win and the luck of the ball bounced our way a little bit. I also think we created our own luck, and it was nice to see us get rewarded for that.”
Oregon held a big advantage in possession in the first half, while shutting out an opponent defensively in the opening half for the 13th time this year. The Ducks held a 9-4 advantage in shots in the first half, moving from midfield to the attacking third with ease.
Seven Ducks took shot attempts in the first half as substitutes Mia Gunter and Shanelle Simien put shots on target in the 43rd and 44th minutes, respectively. Despite the early offensive onslaught, Oregon went into the break tied in a scoreless stalemate before the second half opened in dramatic fashion.
Kristen Parr nearly scored for a third straight game with a shot on goal in the opening minute of the second half. California was awarded a penalty kick following a foul inside the box in the 50th minute. Fitzpatrick took the penalty in pursuit of her seventh goal of the season, but Steele read it all the way and made a sprawling save near the post. (Video highlight).
“It was unbelievable,” said Mertz on Steele’s performance. “The PK was a great save, and then she just made a number of great saves and kicking distributions. I’ve said it all along, it means the world to have a great goalkeeper in the back of the net and we rely on her, almost a little too much. We know she’s going to make the save when it counts.”
Beutler scored the game-winning strike in the 55th minute with a deep goal reminiscent of her season-opening goal against Portland State. The sophomore took possession in midfield and hustled past a defender to get on open look. Her left-footed rocket shot went past goalkeeper Kathleen Messinger, giving Oregon a 1-0 lead.
Beutler has started in every match of the season at midfield and bagged her third career goal.
“Being a midfielder, I’m outside the box much more than inside the six,” said Beutler. “I work on that shot in practice a lot and it’s every so often I get to take it in a match, so it was really nice to get that goal. It’s awesome to get the win. It took a great team effort.”
Following the goal, California had 10 shot attempts and put the Ducks under pressure. Whether it was Steele between the posts or one of Oregon’s defender clearing the ball away, the Ducks denied every Golden Bear opportunity to preserve the victory. The clocks finally hit 0:00 with the 1-0 advantage and a team celebration erupted in midfield.
Oregon has shutout Portland State, BYU, Washington State, Arizona and California this season. Three of those opponents were ranked or receiving votes at the time of the match. Steele has 14 career shutouts, trailing the program best mark by only two after making seven saves tonight.
“We’ve been saying it awhile: just play with nothing to lose,” said Mertz. “No one is expecting us to come out and beat California or a ranked opponent. It was easy for us to put the stress away, relax and have some fun.”
The win marked Oregon’s first victory over a top 25 opponent since downing No. 18 Washington State on Oct. 13, 2011. All four of Oregon’s victories this season came at Papé Field.
Oregon will close the season with a three-game road trip, beginning with a pair of Los Angeles fixtures this week. The Ducks will meet USC on Friday at 3 p.m. at McAlister Field before facing No. 2 UCLA on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Drake Stadium. The UCLA match will be televised live by the Pac-12 Networks while the USC match will be streamed online.
“We still have three more games left, and first, we want to go into the land of the Trojans and see what we can do down there,” said Mertz. “We want to continue this roll for the next three games.”