It’s not an understatement to say that Oregon soccer had a rough season in 2022. Injuries took a significant toll on the team, to the point of barely having enough players on the field. Last season the Ducks went 4-8-7, and only scored more than one goal in three games on the season (2 goals against New Mexico State, Gonzaga, and Oregon State).
What resulted was a team that did not shoot or pass well due to inexperience and being banged up. Oregon battled and head coach Graeme Abel did the best he could with what he had. Given the hand he was dealt, Abel did a commendable job in the face of a disappointing season.
After the last game of the season vs. the Beavers, the Ducks saw 9 seniors graduate and move on: Chai Cortez, True Dydasco, Kess Elmore, Madeline Gravante, Zoe Hasenauer, Bel Rolley, Lexi Romero, Caitlin Shaw, and Croix Soto.
Oregon also lost their best player at the end of the season, goalie Leah Freeman. Freeman was named the Pac-12 goalkeeper of the year in 2022, and at season’s end she opted to transfer to Duke for her senior year.
There was some coaching movement between seasons. Assistant coach Iñaki Gonzalo San Millán moved on and the Ducks brought on Sean Mapson to replace him. Mapson was an assistant coach at Idaho for the past five seasons. He is something of a defensive specialist and was a part of Idaho’s rise in being a top defensive team nationally.
Oregon signed eight players for the 2023 season. They are all West Coast talent, with five from California, two from Washington, and one from Oregon. The Ducks emphasized their need for midfielders and forwards with the 2023 class, and the newcomers add to a squad that is very much on the younger side - of the 29 players in 2023, 22 are freshmen, redshirt freshmen, or sophomores.
Oregon soccer brings back some young players that endured last year’s frying pan and look to make significant contributions this season. Sophomore midfielder Trinity Morales played in all 19 games last season and started in 15 of those matches. Sophomore forward Ajanae Respass was a bright spot last season in being one of the few Ducks able to get the ball in the net. Her production would have been greater had she not been injured last year (she missed a few games due to injury). Regardless, she was still voted on the Pac-12 All-Freshman team. Also, sophomore goalkeeper Julia Richards will be the likely starter at the net in 2023.
When all is said and done, what we know about the 2023 team is that we don’t know much about the 2023 team. Oregon starts their season with two games in Eugene; an exhibition against Idaho, followed by their season opener vs. Baylor. After that, the Ducks are on the road through very early September for the next four games. The road stretch should be telling after having matched against Arkansas and Missouri State, both of whom were very good teams last year and went to the NCAA tournament. Grand Canyon will also be a tough squad - they had a respectable season last year and lost in 2 OTs in the second round of the WAC tournament against #1 seed Utah Valley.
When Oregon begins conference play in September, we will have a firmer grasp of who these new Ducks are, and if these fresh faces translate into improvement upon last season.