EUGENE, Ore. – The Oregon Ducks (7-1) returned to action after having last weekend off to prepare for finals. The break treated the Ducks well, as they beat Nevada-Reno (1-8), 22-6, on Saturday in Eugene and Santa Clara (4-3), 9-5, on Sunday in West Linn, Ore.
Oregon looked well rested on Saturday, as they jumped out to a 10-2 first quarter lead against Nevada, and were up 12-5 at the half. The Ducks stingy defense allowed just one Wolfpack goal in the second half, and the Ducks offense tacked on another 10 to close out the game, 22-6.
Junior attackman Grant Clifford paced the Ducks with eight goals and one assist and freshman attackman John Finegan added seven goals and four assists.
Junior midfielder Nick Cantoni returned to action for the Ducks after missing the first six games of the season due to injury. Cantoni took over faceoff duties late in the first quarter, won 16-of-20 draws and collected seven groundballs. After the game, Oregon coach Jon Bongiorno awarded Cantoni the game ball.
“I’ve been doing a lot of practicing faceoffs, trying to get back into it,” said Cantoni. “When Coach Bongo gave me the opportunity today, I was pretty nervous, but after a few faceoffs, I found my rhythm. Today was an awesome team win and I am just happy my whole family could be here to see my first game back. This is my first game ball ever; it’s great!”
On Sunday, Oregon traveled north to West Linn to face Santa Clara at the Hidden Creek Polo Fields.
In a defensively paced game, Clifford struck first for Oregon, giving the Ducks a 1-0 lead after the first quarter. Santa Clara evened the score early in the second quarter, followed by two more Oregon goals, bringing the score at halftime to 3-1.
Scoring picked up in the second half as Finegan scored three times and finished the game with four goals and one assist. Due to Finegan’s strong performance in both games, he was named to the Under Armour Honor Roll -- the first time he has received that honor.
When the final buzzer sounded, it was the Ducks on top, 9-5. With the win over Santa Clara, the Ducks winning streak is extended to three games with a matchup with No. 1 Chapman just days away.
In addition to Finegan’s 11 goals and five assists this weekend, Clifford had 10 goals and one assist, junior attackman Michael Marcott had one goal and seven assists and junior midfielder Lucas Kuchta added four goals and two assists.
“[I’ve been] working hard in practice, just getting a lot of reps in,” said Finegan. “After the Colorado game, Coach had us do a lot of shooting, especially the attack position. I’ve been doing a lot of extra shooting on my own, a lot of extra wall-ball, and it really paid off this weekend.”
Finegan could not take all of the credit for his solid play.
“Marcott is amazing! His eyes back in the X position are unreal," added Finegan. “He is probably one of the best players that I have ever played with, and ever will play with. I’m so glad that as a freshman I was given the opportunity to play with him [Marcott] and Grant [Clifford].”
Defensively for Oregon, freshman goalie Sam Snider, sophomore goalies Jake Wexler and Zach Wennberg-Smith allowed 11 goals total for the weekend.
Defensive coordinator Markus McCaine seemed pleased with the way the team is playing.
“I think our defense was OK,” said McCaine. “We played great throughout both games as a whole, but we had some moments where we lost ourselves and gave up some goals we shouldn't have. I'm proud of the way that many of our guys stepped up into new roles, but we have to keep striving to peak into April and May. We have to keep getting better as a whole to get where we want to be.”
The No. 10 Ducks host No. 1 Chapman, Friday, March 25, at 7 p.m.
(by Dustin Valdez)