Cougs play to stalemate in conference opener

By Kurt Schroeder Evergreen Soccer reporter

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Goals do not come easy in Pac-12 play, and they are even harder to come by when teammates are blocking them.

This was the case Thursday night as the Washington State women’s soccer team left Eugene, Ore., with a 0-0 double-overtime thriller against the hometown Oregon Ducks to open up conference play.

The late scoring opportunity was neutralized when freshman forward Kailiana Johnson happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Just 30 seconds into the first overtime period, sophomore forward Kourtney Guetlein sprinted down the right side of the field and served a ball into the center of the box.

Senior forward scoring sensation Micaela Castain then drilled a header toward the goal that careened off the top of the crossbar and back toward the center of the box.

With the ball up for grabs, junior midfielder Nicole Setterlund came storming in and hit a laser toward the near post, but it was to no avail.

Johnson had been involved in the attack as well and was in a scramble in front of the net as Setterlund’s shot ricocheted off Johnson’s back, ending WSU’s best scoring chance.

The match was a well fought game from start to finish, with multiple scoring threats occurring from both teams.

Senior defender Rachael Doyle was the first one involved in the action when Castain served a corner kick into the box that was headed just right of the post by Doyle early on.

In the 21st minute of play, Oregon junior forward Bri Pugh initiated the quack pack’s scoring threat with a breakaway opportunity, but the shot was just wide.

The Ducks continued to add pressure in the 27th minute when junior midfielder Kiyomi Cook had a shot on frame that was saved by WSU redshirt junior goalkeeper Gurveen Clair.

Minutes later, Setterlund and Castain played the ball between each other that resulted in a shot wide right from Setterlund.

As the teams went into the half knotted at 0-0, the Cougars held a 7-3 shot advantage in addition to a 4-0 corner kick advantage, which created multiple set piece opportunities.

With the second half underway, both defenses continued to shine by turning away any chance of scoring by the opposition’s offense.

Injuries were a common occurrence with players from both teams exiting the field during the match.

Toward the beginning of the game, Cougar junior forward Jocelyn Jeffers’ head collided with an Oregon player, leaving Jeffers slow to get up. After being evaluated by the team’s medical staff, she returned later and continued to play big minutes.

As for Oregon, Pugh left the pitch early in the second half after an apparent elbow injury, but she returned later.

The brief absence of Pugh was a relief for the Washington State defense, which had no answer for the quickness and top speed of Pugh, who was able to weave in and out of defenders and set up teammates for shots.

With the draw, Washington State improves its unbeaten record to (7-0-3) and extends its school-record unbeaten streak to 14 matches.

Both sophomore defender Mariah Powers and sophomore midfielder Cara Wegner returned to Eugene for the first time since hanging up their green and yellow jerseys and instead donning the crimson and gray.

Washington State will continue Pac-12 play on the road as the team takes on UCLA Friday at 4 p.m. in Los Angeles.