LOS ANGELES – The University of Oregon women’s soccer team gave a great effort against second-ranked UCLA Sunday but the Bruins clipped Oregon to clinch the Pac-12 championship. UCLA remained undefeated in conference play, defeating Oregon 2-0 at Drake Stadium behind two second half goals.
The Ducks (4-11-3, 2-7-1) held the Bruins scoreless in the first half and were even with UCLA through over 60 minutes of playing time. Oregon has shutout opponents in the first half in 12-of-17 games this season. The Bruins took the lead in the 61st minute behind a goal from Taylor Smith, and sealed the win with an 81st minute goal from Kodi Lavrusky.
Head coach Kat Mertz and the Ducks have meet seven opponents ranked in the top 25 or receiving votes at the time of the match. Junior goalkeeper Abby Steele made three saves to lead Oregon. The Ducks placed 3-of-3 shots on target.
“First off, congratulations to UCLA on winning the Pac-12 title – they’re a team that can go far in the (NCAA) tournament,” said Mertz. “Our girls fought hard today. We defended very well in the first half and created some chances. The game changed a bit in the second half when Bri (Pugh) left with an injury. Overall, we played hard against a great side and had a few girls step up for us.”
Behind an organized and collected defensive effort, the Ducks stayed even with UCLA in the first half and kept the Bruins off the scoreboard. Defenders Achijah Berry, Ashlee Schulz, Gabbie Lindeman and Riley Smith came up big on a number of UCLA opportunities inside the box.
Oregon had a few moments on offense where they got forward quickly on a counter, but the Ducks finished with just one shot in the half. Junior forward Bri Pugh tested Bruin goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland with a shot on goal in the 7th minute. Rowland made the save in Oregon’s best look of the half.
With two minutes until intermission, sophomore Kira Wagoner cleared a ball off the line to preserve the 0-0 stalemate at half. Sophomore Kristen Parr took Oregon’s first shot of the second half, putting the ball on frame in the 52nd minute before Rowland made the save.
The high-powered Bruin offense found a way through in the 61st minute as Oregon blocked a pair of Bruin shots but couldn’t clear the ball in its box. Taylor Smith took advantage, scoring her fourth of the season. UCLA put the match away with an 81st minute goal, taking a 2-0 lead. A Bruin cross squirted past Steele and across the face of the goal before Kodi Lavrusky slid the ball in, tallying her fourth goal of 2013.
Junior Kiyomi Cook nearly got one back for the Ducks in the 86th minute, taking a free kick from 30 yards out. The midfielder struck it well at the far post, but Rowland handled the save cleanly.
Steele finished with three saves but was active to cut out a number of UCLA opportunities in attack. Pugh, Parr and Cook put shots on target to lead the offense.
The Ducks close the season with the Civil War on Thursday, meeting Oregon State in Corvallis at 1 p.m. (PT). Action will be held at Paul Lorenz Field and will be televised live by the Pac-12 Networks. The Ducks are searching for a second straight victory over their rivals, as well as their first road victory of the season.
“I got a little taste of the Civil War in the spring,” said Mertz, referring to an exhibition draw with Oregon State on April 27. “I’m really looking forward to the match and seeing how our girls respond. We need to put it all on the table. We’ve fought hard this year and have improved. We’ll go out Thursday and try to have fun. I can’t wait for the emotion of this match.”