On Tuesday, Oregon Ducks soccer spoke with the media on a wide variety of subjects. Here are the highlights of what head coach Graeme Abel, midfielder Zoe Hasenauer, and goalkeeper Leah Freeman had to say:
Regarding the team’s work in the off season:
Abel: Technically we’re a better team, without a doubt, than we have been over the last couple of years. I feel that we’ve gone up another level in terms of how strong we are; our physical ability. (The off season) has felt more normal. We’ve gotten a lot of stuff in, we’ve been able to get video out - a lot of teaching through video as well - get back to having regular meetings, (meetings) in person - it’s been a good off season.
Freeman: We have new players, we have a new mentality. We’re going to do everything we can do to go out and get it, all together, as a team. We’re really hungry this year.
Hasenauer: We’re all really trying to buy in; obviously, we have a lot of new freshmen, so it’s kind of getting them into the swing of things. That’s been our main priority throughout the preseason. I feel they’ve done a really good job.
Who are the leaders vocally or by example:
Abel: (Zoe Hasenauer) has jumped on board more as a leader now. Zoe and I have been together now for 2 1⁄2 years so she knows exactly what I’m looking for. She’s a good leader for us. True (Dydasco) is lending her experience to it, Chai (Cortez) has grown significantly over the 2 1⁄2 years we’ve been here. Leah (Freeman) is stepping up, Kess Elmore, and even Bel (Rolley) who has been around the Pac-12 for three years. We’re a much more mature group, I think, from what we had before.
Hasenauer: We have True - she’s a sixth year, she obviously brings a lot of experience. My roommate, Chai, has been with me this whole time. Leah Freeman, (she’s) a really amazing player, so people respect her on that front. She has a really good soccer IQ, so she’s someone that we really look to for help on the back line.
How do you see yourself as a leader?
Hasenauer: This is my fifth (season) at Oregon, so I feel I really know the information well. (I’m) just trying to come to the freshmen and help them out. It’s a huge learning curve, coming into college soccer from high school. I’m trying to help them along and boost their confidence, too, so that they can feel the best that they are on the field.
Freeman: I think this is the first year where I’ve been able to step into a leadership role. I finally have the confidence in myself, and trust in my team, to feel I can have a voice.
How can Oregon be better offensively?
Abel: We created enough chances last year. We should have scored more goals. We were really honest with the (team) about that. If you have about a 30% conversion rate or above, you’re in good shape. We were down (to) about a 22, 23 percent (rate) last year, so we’ve got to jack that up. If we do what we did last year in terms of creating chances, (then) we’ve got to look at putting them away, and that will take care of that for us.
Hasenauer: I think the biggest thing that has helped us improve our off season finishing is our goalkeepers. They’re all really amazing players, and them being so good at what they do pushes us to up our level of finishing. Not only that, but the new players coming in are really technically skilled. I think they’re done a really good job of technically getting in and finishing in the box, which is something that we had trouble with in the past.
On entering the new season:
Abel: First two weeks; high energy in terms of how we go about on the ball, moving the ball. How we set up defensively. We’ve started to look at (both New Mexico State and San Francisco). We played San Francisco last year. New Mexico State; really good in transition, they’ll be big, they’ll be physical. They’ll be a really tough first game. And then San Francisco, they’ll be another team who, again, (are) big and physical. Two really tough games to start the season.
Hasenauer: It’s going to be kind of a challenge on my front (in) that I’m coming in with completely different players, but I think everyone that’s come into our team is extremely capable. They’re highly skilled; they have great soccer IQ.
Freeman: We want to come out early. We want to set the tone strong, we want to make sure everyone’s stepping up. If we set the tone high now, we just build. Everyone has a piece here that they can use to set that tone.
Regarding NCAA Tournament expectations:
Abel: This is Oregon. That’s got to be our goal every single year. I thought we could have gone two games into the tournament - at least - with the team we had last year.
Freeman: As a unit, we might have thought it was our year last year. We might have thought that we were going to get that, but the fact that we didn’t - that was kind of a wake up call. We need to make sure that this season...(the NCAA) can’t make that decision where (being in the tournament is) up for grabs. We want to solidify it. We want to be sure that we’re in that position.
Hasenauer: (The NCAA tournament) would mean everything (to me). That’s what I came here to do, to have us make the tournament. I think this year we have a really, really good shot. I’m really excited to see how all the new players do. I think we’re going to have a tournament level team again.