The Ducks are coming off their best year in program history – 13 wins – but the team is rebuilding after losing its first-ever senior class to graduation.
The first test for Oregon comes this weekend when the Ducks head east for the Maryland Playday on Saturday and the Fall Lacrosse Classic of Northern Virginia on Sunday.
“Acclimating the freshmen into our scheme of play and getting them up to speed is definitely one of our goals for the fall,” head coach Jen Larsen said. “We will need their tenacity on the field this year, and the freshmen need to be welcomed to the level of Division I lacrosse. That’s why we have scheduled a challenging fall, so we can be ready to go in February.”
The Fall Classic is in its third year of operation and will be held at Centreville High School in Clifton, Va. The Ducks will be taking on James Madison and Richmond.
James Madison finished 2008 with a 7-9 record, but is welcoming in a strong group of freshmen. The class was ranked as the third-best recruiting class in the nation by Inside Lacrosse, and two of the Dukes’ players were included in the publication’s list of its Top 25 recruits.
Last year Richmond ended its season with an even record of 9-9. One of those nine losses was to Oregon, which knocked off the then 18th-ranked Spiders, 17-5, on Feb. 24 in Richmond.
Oregon finished 2008 with a record of 13-7, the best season in program history, but the Ducks will be tested with the loss of eight seniors, seven of which were starters.
The Ducks do have the luxury of bringing back leading scorer Ilsa van den Berg and midfielder Alicia Burkhart, who was recently named to the 49-member player pool that will represent the U.S. Lacrosse women’s national teams in 2008-09.
Also included in that group of returners are starting defenders Erin Chisnell and Cara Mead, 2008 co-team MVP and starting goalkeeper Anna Poponyak and 2008 co-Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Newcomer of the Year, sophomore Alex Breiner.
The team started its training on Sept. 15, and the last two weeks have already produced results.
“We have had tremendous success with our freshmen working hard right from the start,” Larsen said. “We have been able to get the group chemistry going and have been working on our connections on the field and trust on the defensive end.
“Our upperclassmen have learned a lot from the class before them, and are doing a tremendous job leading this new team forward.”
The Ducks will play one more weekend in the fall traveling to Stanford on Oct. 18, and crossing the Bay for the Cal Playday on Oct. 19.