October 12, 2017
EUGENE, Ore. – Oregon looks to finish its streak of home matches on a positive note against Arizona State Friday at 4 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks). Following back-to-back losses against Washington State and Washington, the Ducks are returning to the root of Oregon soccer.
Adversity has struck Oregon with injuries, but that’s no excuse, which head coach Kat Mertz made clear after their match Sunday.
She said it would be nice to have her full squad that features all four fullbacks instead of only two that are healthy. Not to mention junior forward, Kyra Fawcett, who led the Ducks with five goals in 2016. The Bountiful, Utah, native is one goal shy this season from tying last year’s goal tally.
One player that has defeated the injury bug is fellow Utah native Bayley Bruner. The junior forward has seen limited minutes on the field this season but stayed patient, trained hard and earned her position back into the starting 11.
Bruner made her first start of the season Sunday against the Washington Huskies but isn’t satisfied there. Bruner wants to not only deter the team’s current rough patch, but also help her team earn three points against Arizona State.
“It was a good win last year and we beat them, 4-0, but they’re a pretty good team this year,” Bruner said. “We’re hoping to execute our game plan and do well Friday.”
The forward went on to say that the team’s solution to handling this season’s adversity was talked about during a team meeting this week.
“We can either fall down and continue on the same road, or we can pick each other up and kill the last six games left and be the first Oregon soccer team to make the NCAA Tournament,” Bruner said.
Coach Mertz and Bruner both said the team had vigorous but prosperous training sessions this week. Getting back to basics means hard work. The overall mentality and playing a full 90 minutes of soccer is a focal point, heading into Friday match.
Being more efficient in front of goal has been another key part of the Ducks’ training regimen this week. Oregon has been outscored by their opponents 16-15 this season.
“We need to outwork teams,” Mertz said. “We have to earn our three points. No one is going to roll over and so for us; it’s about outworking our opponents.”
Bruner said her resurgence back from injury will give her the opportunity to work hard for her team, but also be that vocal leader for her teammates and support when they need it, leading into Friday.
Arizona State will look a bit different Friday afternoon at Papé Field, on and off the pitch. The Sun Devils appointed a new head coach, Graham Winkworth, from South Alabama after the 2016 season.
The Sun Devils will also be without junior center back, Angela Boyle, who received a red card and was sent off during their match against USC last weekend.
Oregon’s game plan will not be influenced by the Sun Devils’ change in personnel or mishaps. Mertz said it’s about what her team can do.
“Arizona State has played in multiple different systems,” Mertz said. “It’s not about being focused on what Arizona State can and cannot do; it’s about what our strengths are and going back to basics.”
Friday’s match will be the last home match for the Ducks until after their trip to the Bay Area to face California and Stanford. The Ducks will return home Oct. 26 to face Utah.
– goducks –