By Rob Moseley
Exhausted from 89 minutes of action – nearly a full regulation game – and sick with a stomach ailment, Bri Pugh lay prone on Oregon’s bench following the Ducks’ scoreless tie with BYU last week.
Pugh was nearly too tired to talk, but her body language spoke volumes. After four games in 12 days, the Oregon women’s soccer team needed a break.
Just at the right time, the Ducks (2-4-1) are in the midst of a week off before hosting San Francisco to conclude nonconference play Friday at 7 p.m. First-year UO coach Kat Mertz scheduled two tough workouts for Sunday and Monday, balanced with massage therapy and other recovery methods for her team during the break.
“We’re definitely going to take advantage of the days off that we have,” Mertz said following the tie with BYU. “Soccer’s a lot of minutes, and it’s a lot of pounding on their legs. … We don’t have very big numbers coming off the bench, so it’s nice to have that recovery time.”
The BYU game was Oregon’s third in seven days, all of them maddeningly close. Coming off a 2-1 win over Texas, the Ducks dropped a 1-0 decision to Hawaii, fell 2-1 to UC Irvine two days later despite a furious rally over the final 20 minutes, then played even with the Cougars.
While those scores didn’t yield a victory, they did illustrate progress. BYU was the second ranked team the Ducks took to overtime this season, but after giving up a quick goal to Portland in a loss on Aug. 25, Oregon earned the draw with the Cougars.
“We’re still growing as a team,” Mertz said. “We have a lot of players that haven’t played a significant amount of minutes, regardless of their year in college; we have some juniors that have never really played. … We would have liked a quick goal, but I’ll take not giving up a goal, and a shutout.”
The double-overtime shutout earned UO goalkeeper Abby Steele defensive player of the week honors from the Pac-12. Oregon’s back line also played well, negating BYU’s attempts to attack from the flank, which Mertz had made a focus of their pregame preparations.
Those back-line defenders – Achijah Berry, Reilley Moore, Riley Smith and Gabbie Lindeman – each played all 110 minutes. Such a lengthy game inevitably got physical, and the Ducks held their own in that regard, too.
“We’ve talked about having a bite back there as well, and they came to play,” Mertz said.
The effort was there for Oregon offensively, too. The Ducks created 55 shots in the three matches against Hawaii, UC Irvine and BYU, though those chances yielded just one goal.
“Now we have to start putting some of those away,” Mertz said. “… We’re happy with the shots, we’re happy with the corners, but now we’ve got to make them count. We’ve proven we can get the opportunities and the chances. Now someone just needs to put one away.”