2007 Women's Soccer Preview: Oregon

Aug. 21, 2007

Courtesy: Greg Walker, Oregon Media Relations

Now that the 2006 season is in the rearview mirror, it's time to let out a little secret about the most successful season in Oregon soccer history.Oregon's offense in 2006 was, at best, average in the program's historical terms. That's not to take away from the remarkable individual season put on the books by Pac-10 player of the year Nicole Garbin -- more on filling her shoes later -- but overall, the Ducks' offensive marks were unremarkable.Of the offensive categories, only one -- Oregon's 23 assists -- cracked the top three seasons in the annals of the program.

So what was the secret to winning 12 games, finishing second in the Pac-10 (6-1-2) and beating a pair of ranked teams (No. 3 UCLA, No. 24 Arizona) along the way?

A defense that eclipsed virtually every record set forth in the previous 10 years of Oregon soccer.

The Ducks yielded just 17 goals in 20 games -- 10 fewer than the previous school best (27 in 1999 in 19 games).

That produced a school record goals against average of 0.81 (more than half a goal a game better than 1999's 1.36).

And just for good measure, Oregon set the school record for shutouts for the second consecutive season with eight (one better than 2005), giving the program 15 shutouts in the last two years.

With the starting five of defenders Dylann Tharp, Nicole Dobrzynski, Darcie Gardner and Danielle Sweeney, and goalkeeper Jessie Chatfield all returning, that's where the 2007 outlook must begin.

Chatfield (Eugene, Ore.) has established herself as one of the best net-minders in the Pac-10. You want tough? Chatfield was back in the net less than a month after breaking her wrist in early September against New Hampshire, a game she finished in spite of the injury. Upon her return, Chatfield went 6-2-2 in the net and set an Oregon single season record with an 0.82 goals against average.

She's already Oregon's career leader in shutouts with 12 and is could overtake Amanda Fox's 23 wins for the all-time lead in that category sometime during the 2007 season.

Of mild concern for the Ducks is that Chatfield suffered a broken wrist in her other arm this spring against Portland. She's not expected to miss any time in the fall, but keeping Chatfield healthy for the duration will be a priority this season.

Freshman Tori Johnson (Corvallis, Ore.) will backup Chatfield.

The defense will be the anchor of the team and could be one of the best in the country. Led by senior center back Tharp (San Pedro, Calif.), an all-Pac-10 honorable mention selection in 2006, the Ducks surrendered just 17 goals a season ago and set a school record with eight shutouts (0.81 GAA). Tharp has started 57 straight games and on pace to become Oregon's all-time leader in games played and games started.

The defense was also more responsible than ever for igniting the offense. Sweeney, a sophomore from Pleasanton, Calif., was second on the team with three assists as she was named to the Pac-10 all-freshman team. Tharp had two assists, while Dobrzynski a junior from Danville, Calif., had one. The 5-9 Gardner (Bellingham, Wash.) was the team's most improved player of 2006 and the junior is Oregon's most physically imposing player on the back line.

The Ducks have experience off the bench in sophomore Barbara Blocker (Sacramento, Calif.), who had a goal and an assist in 2006. Newcomers Sara Plutko (Upland, Calif.) and Marissa 'Bo' Rael (Alta Loma, Calif.) will also vie for time in the back.

Oregon was vastly improved in the midfield in 2006 and junior Allison Newton (Eugene, Ore.) was one of the main reasons for that. The Ducks' top returning scorer found the net six times last season and led the team with four assists (16 points).

Newton and sophomore Dani Oster (Mill Creek, Wash.) started every game at the outside midfield spots for the Ducks in 2006. Junior Jen Cameron (Tigard, Ore.) was a mainstay at defensive center midfield with 19 starts, as both she and Oster recorded two assists a year ago. They lead a large contingent of veterans fighting with six rookies for playing time.

Finding a steady attacking center midfielder will be an important task in fall camp. Sophomore Teresa Bowns (Redmond, Wash.) had a terrific spring season and positioned herself well for plentiful minutes in 2007. She had a pair of assists as a freshman. Sophomore Rianna Mansfield (Eugene, Ore.) has shown much promise, but has battled injuries most of her career at Oregon. Junior Adriana Montes (Eugene, Ore.) continues to be a late-blooming talent and always seems to be around the ball when she is on the field.

The half-dozen newcomers include three transfers and three freshmen. Junior Jessica Goodell (Durango, Colo.) transfers from Nebraska and has NCAA Tournament experience with the Cornhuskers. Both she and Jenny Baker (Eatonville, Wash.) were prolific scorers in high school. Baker will be a sophomore after playing her first season at Central Florida, as will Mackenzie Doty (McMinnville, Ore.). Doty spent the 2006 season as a member of the soccer team at Chico State.

The three freshmen midfielders will push for minutes sooner than later in their careers. Two are from California -- Kirstie Kuhns (Pleasanton) and Mercedes Walters (Mission Viejo) -- while the other, Bree Rowe, is from Federal Way, Wash.

There's no denying that Pac-10 player of the year Nicole Garbin will be missed. She scored 12 goals, including nine game-winners, with one assist for 25 points in 2006. Garbin also led the team with 84 shots. The school career and single-season record holder in goals, assists, points and shots leaves a gap that won't be filled by just one player.

Instead, Oregon may look to spread the attack up front. Senior forward Tiffany Smith (Eugene, Ore.) is the most experienced of the group with four career goals and four career assists. After missing the first five games of 2006 recovering from ankle surgery, she scored three goals, including two game-winners, the last 15 games of the season.

The Ducks will also look for much bigger contributions from sophomores Melissa Buich (Alamo, Calif.) and Megan Watson (Lake Oswego, Ore.). The two had moments in 2006, but were also inconsistent at times as rookies.

The incoming freshmen forwards might be Oregon's best class yet with Jill Jensen (Puyallup, Wash.) coming from club soccer powerhouse FC Royals and Jen Stoltenberg (Mission Viejo, Calif.) scorching the nets in California.Juniors Goodell and Montes could also move up from the midfield and see some time in the attack as the Ducks will experiment with many combinations of players, especially early in the season.

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