Late goal propels women's team to win in season-opener
Published: Saturday, August 18, 2012
Updated: Saturday, August 18, 2012 02:08
After Oregon State’s season-opener against the University of Alabama-Birmingham Friday night, Megan Miller admitted she hates tying as much as she hates losing.
Good thing the senior forward’s ability to place a corner kick exactly where she wants to kept her final collegiate season from beginning with a 0-0 draw.
With less than three minutes remaining in Friday’s match, Miller stood over the ball in the southeast corner of Paul Lorenz Field and visualized herself bending a cross to the back post and giving one of her teammates a chance to head it in.
Up to that point, neither team had found the back of the net despite numerous opportunities.
Miller’s cross floated through the air, found the head of junior midfielder Jacy Drobney and then the back of junior defender Morgan Kennedy — and then the back of the net.
Sound chaotic? Unconventional? It was all of the above. But all that matters is it propelled Oregon State to a 1-0 win and a 1-0 record.
“We had worked on corners and free kicks all day yesterday,” Miller said. “We have a great formation in the box that causes chaos for their defense, and I was like, ‘Just get it in the mix and it’s gotta go off someone.’”
Said Kennedy: “It hit Jacy’s head, and as I was being pushed into the goal it just rolled off my back and in. Honestly it could have hit off anyone. I was just lucky to be there. The service was perfect.”
“I couldn’t believe it, I was just ecstatic,” said Kennedy, who’s only other career goal was a penalty kick in last year’s season-ending loss to the University of Portland.
Starting the season on the right note was important for a team that has reached three consecutive NCAA Tournaments but was playing with almost a brand-new starting 11.
After graduating five senior starters, the Beavers lost returning starters Chelsea Buckland and Milan Cabrera to offseason knee injuries. They also began the season without 2011 All-Pac-12 second-teamer Jenna Richardson, who’s currently in Japan playing for Canada in the U-20 World Cup.
All that resulted in the Beavers starting six players Friday with less than five collegiate starts under their belt. OSU also used four freshmen in the match.
“I think the girls were definitely nervous,” head coach Linus Rhode said. “Girls were playing a lot of minutes who had never done that before. They had to fight through that. It was good getting those first-game jitters out against a very competitive team.”
Among those thrust into bigger roles was junior goalkeeper Audrey Bernier-Larose, who did her part to make the Beavers’ lone goal stand up. Lorose, who’s replacing two-time All-Pac-12 keeper Colleen Boyd, made several key saves, including one that came just moments after OSU took its 1-0 lead.
UAB, which went 6-12-1 and 3-7-1 in Conference USA last year, made life difficult for OSU early on Friday.
“We had trouble with their formation, they were running through us in the midfield and we couldn’t really figure out where to defend them and stuff,” Drobney said.
“(In the first half) we were playing a lot of one-touch soccer when we didn’t have to, and that was a reflection of the pressure they were putting on us,” Rhode said. “We made some adjustments and the second half was much more composed and the brand of soccer we wanted to play.”
The Beavers can only hope the momentum from Friday’s game carries over to Monday, when they’ll hit the road to play Portland in a rematch of last year’s NCAA Tournament thriller.
For now, they’re just thankful they’ll carry a winning record into that match.
“It gives us a load of confidence,” Miller said. “We had to find a new identity with this team, and starting the season off with a win is a huge deal.”
Grady Garrett, managing editor