OSU Gave Fans A Season Full Of Highlights In 2002
Dec. 16, 2002
CORVALLIS, Ore. - -
After coming close to a NCAA Women's College Cup selection in 2001, Oregon State had taken aim on a postseason appearance in 2002.
OSU's promising 7-2-2 start in a non-conference schedule that featured three teams that went on to qualify for the NCAA tournament, including the eventual champion, Portland, had OSU poised to qualify for the postseason for the first time since 1995 as it entered Pacific-10 play.
Following a shorthanded 1-0 double-overtime home loss to tournament-bound Washington State to open the conference season, the Beavers continued their solid play but dropped the next four games to Washington, then-No. 1 Stanford and No. 11 California, and Arizona State; the latter three were NCAA qualifiers as well.
OSU rebounded with a vengeance, claiming a 5-0 win over Arizona to keep its postseason hopes alive. The win marked the third time OSU scored five goals in a game in 2002 - the first time in school history the Beavs scored five or more goals that many times.
Up next were road games at No. 16 USC and No. 6 UCLA before the season finale at Oregon.
OSU and USC played to a 1-1 standstill in regulation - forcing one of four overtime games for OSU - but the Trojans took advantage of an early opportunity in the extra session to escape with a 2-1 win.
After a loss at UCLA, the Beavers made the trip to Eugene to face the Ducks, and OSU grabbed a 2-1 win to up its record to 9-9-2 (2-7-0 Pac-10, eighth place) and secure the program's first back-to-back non-losing seasons since 1994-95.
'We spent a lot of time since the season ended trying to put our finger on exactly how we felt about it, and on one side of it, it was another good season for us,' fifth-year coach Steve Fennah said. 'We've got a winning record over the last two years (19-17-4), which hasn't happened since 1994-95. So in that sense, it's a very positive thing.
'On the other hand, going into the season, our expectations were higher and certainly our goal was to play in the NCAA tournament. That obviously didn't happen.'
'Did we play well over the course of the year? Yes, I think we played rather well,' Fennah said. 'There were four games that went to overtime, and based on our RPI, which was very high, one more win would have likely put us in the tournament. Those overtime games can always go either way.'
The Beavers provided a season full of highlights on both halves of the pitch. To note: A season-opening 0-0 tie with No. 10 Florida State - an eventual NCAA sweet 16 team - in which OSU goalkeeper Jo Fletcher made a season-high 10 saves and the defense fended off 23 Seminole shots.
Fletcher's goalkeeping display earned praise from Fennah as one of the season's finest.
'I think one of the best individual performances was Jo Fletcher's against Florida State,'Fennah said. 'She was outstanding in that game, and so was (senior midfielder) Morgan Crabtree. That's where she picked up the injury (groin and hip flexor) that she had to deal with the rest of the season. They were both outstanding - it was a very high-caliber performance to open the season.'
Crabtree's injury was the first of many for OSU, as the team struggled to field the same unit on a regular basis. In all, the Beavers fielded 13 different starting lineups over the 20-game season, and only two players - Katie Henderson and Fletcher - started all 20 games.
'We really felt over the course of the year that injuries were a big factor for us,' Fennah said. 'That had a major impact on us, particularly with Morgan Crabtree, who has been one of the best midfield players in the Pac-10. She wasn't able to play anywhere close to healthy throughout the entire course of the season.
'Although we'd like to think we were good enough all around to deal with those injuries, the reality was that we weren't. We found that we lacked some depth to our squad, which wasn't a surprise to us,' Fennah said.
'There were a number of factors that left us in this gray area between being very happy with the season and being a little disappointed.'
A week after Florida State, the Beavers shut out Hawaii and Gonzaga in Corvallis - holding GU to two shots - en route to posting shutouts in three of their first four games. In all, OSU blanked six teams on the year, the most since 1995.
Also among OSU's defensive highlights were a shutout of then-undefeated Pacific and limiting Wisconsin-Green Bay to three shots in a 4-1 win.
'Perhaps the one (season-long defensive performance) that will be very hard to improve on will be the performance of Jo Fletcher in goal,' Fennah said. 'People always talk about (Washington's) Hope Solo as the example of goalkeeping in the United States right now, or maybe even being the world's best goalkeeper, and I certainly wouldn't be one to disagree with that. But Jo is very, very close.'
Fletcher made 106 saves in 2002, and she finished her career with the OSU record for career goals-against average with a 1.24 mark.
'That's going to be hard to replace, as is the defensive performance that Mandy Melendez has turned in for us the last two or three years,' Fennah said of the honorable mention All-Pac-10 defender.
OSU displayed its offensive prowess frequently throughout the year, as the Beavers amassed 34 goals and 30 assists, and ranked fourth in the Pac-10 with a school-record 297 shots. OSU was also sixth in the conference in points, goals, and assists.
Three times - against Air Force, New Mexico, and Arizona - the Beavers scored five goals, and they tallied a 4-1 win over UWGB. In all, OSU had six games with 20 shots or better.
'The obvious step we made this year is that we were able to take some teams apart, and nobody really took us apart,' Fennah said. 'In years gone by, nobody had really got after us too much, but I don't know that we were quite so emphatic about how we played to defeat opponents. We had three five-goal games against decent teams this year.'
Five individuals totaled double-figure points, with junior Courtney Carter's 19 (8 goals, 3 assists) leading the team and placing her in a tie for 10th in the regular season Pac-10 scoring race. Seven of Carter's goals came in three games, including a hat trick against Air Force. She also stands 10th on the school's all-time points list.
'Courtney Carter was just unbelievable as the season went on for us in terms of her consistency and what she brought to the team,' Fennah said of the junior from West Linn, Ore. 'She got a hat trick, which is always a special performance, but her movement and her intelligence up front led the line very well.'
The freshman duo of Brianna Monka and Stacey Mescher was among the double-figure quintet. Monka was second on the team with 17 points (7 goals, 3 assists) and Mescher totaled 11 (4 goals, 3 assists). That tandem was part of a group of eight freshmen in 2002, seven of which saw action.
'This is a very exciting group of freshmen,' Fennah said. 'They made great strides this year, and were able to make contributions right away.'
Katie Henderson and Lindsey Beem racked up 14 (5 goals, 4 assists) and 11 points (3 goals, 5 assists), respectively, and Henderson concluded her career at Oregon State as the fourth all-time leading scorer with 56 points (21 goals, 14 assists). Beem's 56 shots were sixth-best in the Pac-10 and her five assists tied her for 10th.
Throughout the season, the Beavers' six seniors made their presence known, as Crabtree, Fletcher, Henderson, Whitney Horn, and Melendez were fixtures in the starting lineup while Ashley Johnston made regular appearances off the bench.
'It's going to be very strange next year putting the team sheet together and not putting the names of Katie Henderson and (Morgan) Crabtree, and so on on the roster,' Fennah said. 'They've been the mainstays since I've been here - they've been the first names on the sheet.
'That's a group that I am extremely fond of and am very proud of what they've done here. They've given a lot to take this program from a struggling position to a good position. It's really going to be hard to not see them around come August of next year. They're great kids, and they've done a lot for the university on and off the field.'
Also of note is the fact that seven OSU student-athletes were selected for Pac-10 All-Academic recognition. Crabtree was a first-team pick, Carter a second-teamer, and Beem, Horn, Henderson, Melendez, and Jillian Nicks received honorable mention. Carter and Crabtree were Verizon first-team Academic All-Region picks, and Henderson made the second team.
Though the 2002 squad didn't realize its NCAA College Cup goal, the team has made a name for itself and has shown that it can compete on a much higher level than in years past.
'In the larger picture over a period of years, we're very excited,' Fennah said. 'We're very excited in terms of how our existing squad and this year's newcomers responded to the challenges we placed on them in terms of raising the bar - their fitness levels and the quality of their play. They certainly did that throughout this season.
'There's definitely a very good feeling overall that we're on a very good track. We're getting a lot of respect from other programs and in the recruiting and club circles on the West Coast, things are going very well for us.'
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