Huskies Gearing Up For Second Half Heading Into Bye Week
Oct. 23, 2009
By Mark Morgan
A surprising 2-0 loss this past Sunday at Oregon State blemished the Washington men's soccer team's undefeated record in Pac-10 play. However, the Huskies (4-5-4, 1-1-3) go into this bye week on an upbeat note, having knocked off No. 19 California (8-5-0, 2-3-0) for their only victory in the conference and impressively forcing draws against No. 17 Stanford (8-3-1, 2-2-1) and No. 3 UCLA (8-1-2, 3-0-2).
Washington is now tied for third place in the Pac-10 with Cal and Oregon State, all with six points. The two teams in front of the Huskies have little room for comfort; second-place Stanford has seven points and battled Washington to a draw last weekend. The first-place team in the conference, UCLA, has 11 points, but the Bruins were unable to take care of business against the Huskies in Seattle.
The second half of the schedule will be interesting, since the UW has seen every Pac-10 team already.
'We get a feel for how everybody plays, so we will know them a little better and be a little more prepared for each game,' said senior defender Taylor Hoss.
Hoss said the team simply needs to keep taking the classic approach of 'believing that we can still win it ... We've shown that we can beat the best teams, but we can also lose, too, so we have to just stay confident, stay motivated and believe.'
To finish strong, Washington needs to put away their chances and not settle for a defensive struggle.
'A lot of it is just creating chances. Creating goals -- that's the thing we've struggled with the whole year,' said sophomore defender Jamie Finch. 'That's why we've tied so many games. Just putting away teams. We are 1-1-3 now, and the three ties we easily could have won. It's just about putting away our chances.'
Washington can look to put away those chances in Seattle; three of its remaining five games will be at home, following a first-half schedule that only featured two home games.
'We've got to take each game as its own entity and bring a maximum effort,' said head coach Dean Wurzberger. 'We've got to capitalize on the home field advantage of those five matches, and we've got to continue our theme of playing tough on the road like we have.'
Wurzberger cites junior midfielder Brad Keller and freshman forward Ryan Moore as pleasant surprises through the first round of conference play. Both players will be key to Washington's success in the second half of the year, since goals have been hard to come by through the first half of conference play.
The Huskies, like most teams, see the bye week as a chance to get some rest but also to prepare for their Pac-10 foes.
'It's a dual-edged sword; rest but not too much rest,' Wurzberger said. 'Relief of mental fatigue but keeping the physical going. Training's got to be stimulating.'
Wurzberger intends to improve on last season's campaign that saw Washington fall off after an impressive first-half performance in the Pac-10.
'Last year, we thought we'd handle it right, but we didn't,' Wurzberger said. 'We didn't come back from the break. The year before, in 2007, we did very well and were able to answer the bell down the stretch. So you never know what's around the corner.'
Washington's next match will be next Friday against Cal at home.
Reach reporter Mark Morgan at firstname.lastname@example.org