Club women’s soccer
This year, club soccer is shifting from a casual atmosphere to a high intensity, more competitive team. Tryouts conclude this week, with cuts today, paring down 40 women into a squad of 18.
Practices have been intense, starting at 6 a.m., with conditioning, conditioning and more conditioning. Tryout numbers are down, but the quality of players is up.
“It separates those who are committed and those who aren’t,” said club coordinator Christine De Martini.
Freshman are expected to contribute, as eight players have left the team for one reason or another.
The addition of coaches Derek Peterson and Rick Birgin has helped ratchet up the Ducks’ intensity level from a team that enjoys what it does to a team committed to competing and winning. Their mere presence has made the team more accountable through practice structure.
“Just having a coach here is huge,” De Martini. “In the past we’ve been self-coached, but with a coach there’s a level of accountability. Those two have commanded a ton of respect already.”
After last year, the team is hungry for success. The Ducks did not lose in regionals last year and regretted not signing up for the national open championship — something they have done this year. They also look forward to tournaments with NCAA Division III and NAIA schools, such as Corban College in Salem.
“Coaches are interested in scheduling us again. Many of the girls were looking at Division III, Division II, or even Division I soccer for college, so we are excited,” said De Martini.
Having lost 11 seniors to graduation, the Ducks will need significant contributions from freshmen this year. Most have never played rugby before, and it will be a challenge for them to learn the intricacies of the sport.
One would expect the Ducks to be rebuilding given the losses due to graduation and influx of inexperienced players, but they have an ace-in-the-hole: new head coach Duffin McShane.
Coordinator Megan Adams said he is one of the best coaches in the Northwest.
“He breaks (technique) down to every single step; we learn something new every time,” said Adams.
McShane played in the rugby Superleague, which is a semi-pro rugby league. It’s akin to minor league baseball. His rugby background will help a team that is relatively inexperienced.
This season, they will need all the help they can get because a familiar rival will test the Ducks.
“Oregon State is always a dogfight. It doesn’t matter how good they are or we are, it’s always tough,” said Adams.
She also mentioned Oregon was the last team to beat powerhouse Stanford. Although not in their league, the Cardinal called and requested another game with the Ducks this year. Clearly, they are gunning for the Ducks.
Although it may seem like the Ducks are in for a down year, Adams said the team is aiming high.
“Duffin just told us, why should we aim low? We’re aiming for a championship, we’ve got to aim high,” said Adams.
After consistent improvement the last three years, men’s rugby is eager to grab it.
From 2007 to 2009, the Ducks finished ninth, seventh, and fourth, respectively, in the Pac-10 tournament. The gradual rise has coordinator David Hoffenberg excited for the upcoming year.
“I feel like this team is more prepared than it ever has been,” said Hoffenberg, “We expect to be a top 25 team.”
“We’ve put in a lot of hard work,” said junior Bronz Kaae, “(We want to) at least make the playoffs.”
The Ducks lost only three seniors to graduation, and one of them, forwards coach Rob Mason, has rejoined the squad on staff. The team continuity from last year has developed into a strong bond. Hoffenberg says the team is like brothers, and believes the closeness will translate into results on the field.
“The camaraderie is incredible,” Hoffenberg said. “Our team’s biggest strength is our camaraderie, and success will come from that.”
The quest for respect will be challenging for the Ducks. They are stuck in the toughest rugby region in the United States, with perennial national championship contender Cal, defending national champion BYU, preseason No. 4 Utah, and Stanford. Although it will be difficult, Oregon is ready to take on the big boys and grab the respect it feels it is due.
“We want to let them know U of O has quality rugby and we are ready to compete on a national scale,” said Hoffenberg.