Win at Cal Keeps Ducks Unbeaten

BERKELEY— The Oregon soccer program is off to its best start in 40 years after the Ducks posted their fourth consecutive shutout Thursday, a 2-0 victory at California.

After going winless in the program’s first 11 trips to Cal, the Ducks have now won two straight on the road against the Golden Bears. Oregon followed a 1-0 win this past spring with Thursday’s victory, which included a first-half own-goal and was capped by the first career collegiate goal from Anna Phillips in the second half at Edwards Stadium.

Goalkeeper Leah Freeman tied her own program record by recording her fourth straight shutout and the Ducks improved to 6-0-4 on the season. That’s the best start for Oregon since the 1981 team was 9-0-1, and the Ducks will look to keep it rolling Sunday at Stanford.

“I think we really came together as a team, and it just sets us up for the game on Sunday,” said Phillips, a center back who scored off a set piece in the 55th minute Thursday. “We know it’s gonna be a tough game, but we’re setting ourselves up well for it.”

Coming off a tumultuous travel day that saw some members of the team not arrive in the Bay Area until game day, the Ducks got off to a bit of a slow start Thursday afternoon. But they soon found their legs.

The Ducks broke the ice in the 27th minute, thanks to one of their four corner kicks in the game. Chai Cortez sent the ball to the front of the goal, Eden Hardy got her head on it and a deflection attempt by a Cal defender sent it into the back of the net.

Freeman, whose six shutouts already this season are one shy of the UO record, made two saves in the first half. The biggest came in the 39th minute, after a deflected shot in front of the UO goal by defender Croix Soto led to a Cal throw-in.

The ball was quickly played back on goal, and after one attempted save Freeman had to make a point-blank stop on a rebound attempt to keep the game scoreless. By game’s end she had a streak of 400 consecutive minutes without a goal, the third-longest in UO history.

The Ducks anticipated a push by Cal coming out of halftime, and it developed as expected. But the Ducks withstood the pressure and answered it with their second goal, off another set piece.

That play began with another corner kick by Cortez, who sent it back to Caitlin Shaw. Shaw sent a cross toward the far post of the Cal goal, and Phillips was there to finish it with her head for a 2-0 lead.

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UO coach Graeme Abel said assistant Thomas Osborne devised that set piece after watching film on the Golden Bears, and the Ducks drilled in practice before leaving for Cal.

“We looked at it and thought it was something that, there were some trends there that we could take advantage of,” Abel said. “We do our homework, and it paid off.”

Phillips, a freshman from England, became the ninth different Ducks player to score this season. It was a rare opportunity for the center back, who didn’t necessarily expect to be a goal scorer in college.

“I can’t say I did — especially not in my freshman year, anyway,” Phillips said. “The only opportunities I get to score is off set pieces, so I try and make the most of it.”

The second goal allowed the Ducks to relax a bit, and they generally controlled play the rest of the way. Freeman capped the shutout with a diving stop of a shot to the near post in the 86th minutes.

The Ducks demonstrated outstanding resiliency after a travel experience that included a long delay in Eugene on Wednesday night due to mechanical issues with their plane, and the need for a handful of travel party members to wait and fly out Thursday morning — a flight that was itself also delayed by a couple of hours.

“They handled it really well and really maturely,” Abel said.

Freeman’s shutout was the 11th of her career, tying her for fifth in UO history.

The Ducks play at Stanford on Sunday (1 p.m., Pac-12 Network).