O’Connell, Puszcz Lifts Oregon Past USC

DENVER, Colo. – Caroline Federighi said she didn’t want her senior season to end this past Sunday, after a heart wrenching loss to Colorado in triple overtime. She kept her end of the bargain with a season-high 12 saves against USC, and got help on offense from Carly O'Connell and Olivia Pyne in a 7-6 win Thursday at the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament .

O'Connell netted a hat trick, while Pyne continued her tear on offense with two goals.

The Ducks now move to 6-3 all-time in their opening matches of the MPSF Tournament with the victory Thursday night over USC at Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium. UO (11-7, 6-3 MPSF) now meets top-seeded Denver (16-1, 9-0 MPSF) in the semifinals as the Ducks look to avenge their loss last Friday.

“Keeping possession of the ball was the most important thing on my mind,” said Federighi. “That, however, didn’t work out so well with me turning it over twice.”

Oregon nearly gave the game away, turning the ball over twice with less than a minute to go in front of its own goal. But Federighi stepped up both times despite turning the ball over. The senior keeper denied USC’s (9-9, 6-3 MPSF) Michaela Michael of any heroics twice, once with 17 seconds left to play and another with two seconds left to play.

“I was just really, really pumped and excited,” said Federighi about that last minute of play. “I had to have that ‘no mercy’ mindset. Nothing was going to get through me. My defenders were throwing their bodies around to stop the ball and were doing everything they could, so I wasn’t going to let them down.”

“Caroline was huge, she was absolutely huge the whole game,” said head coach Jen Beck. “She just exudes confidence. We switched our defense a couple times and she was our general out there. We talked about putting the shooters under duress and not give them point blank shots. And if they did that, they knew that Caroline was there to back them up.”

The Ducks finished out the last 12:09 of the game with a 3-0 run behind O’Connell’s hat trick and Puszcz’s game-winner with 1:52 remaining.

“Before the game J-May (Jen Derby) gave me a look and just said, ‘do work’ and it really fired me up,” said O’Connell.

That look was all O’Connell needed. Not only did the sophomore cut USC’s lead to 6-5, she also fired in the game-tying goal.

“I felt like I had to take leadership since they were marking Shannon (Propst) up the entire game,” said O’Connell. “I knew I was wide on a couple shots, but the goalie was a lefty so I shot it the opposite side.”

Holly Johnson, who has had a quiet second half of the season, picked the perfect time to step up when she connected with Puszcz out of the timeout to give UO the 7-6 lead. Johnson also finished with a goal to go with her game-winning assist.

When asked about Oregon scoring after both timeouts, Beck said, “I just wanted to get us calm, confident and have everyone on the same game plan. We saved them (timeouts) to give them a break and get some water. I think the team just worked off each other’s momentum and celebrated when someone did something well.”

The Ducks will now have an opportunity to avenge their loss to Denver when they face the top-seeded Pioneers in the semifinal match of the MPSF Tournament at 3 p.m. (PDT) on Friday, May 2, at Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium.

“I think Denver rightfully earned the No.1 seed,” said Beck. “Denver hasn’t played since they played us so they’ve been prepping for either USC or us. I know we’re excited and we’re going to let this victory soak in, but we’ll get right back at it tomorrow morning and prepare for Denver.”

GAME NOTES: Shannon Propst’s assist to Olivia Pyne at the 20:55 mark gave the senior 69 points on the year, breaking the single-season point record she set last year (68)…Pyne has successfully netted 2-plus goals in five-straight games…Oregon is now 6-3 all-time in its opening match of the MPSF Tournament…The last two times UO made the conference tournament, the Ducks played in the championship game…UO is 1-1 all-time playing in the championship game…The Ducks are 1-5 all-time in semifinal matches in the MPSF Tournament…