Oregon (10-5, MCLA Quarterfinals)
Key Loss: Justin Blackmore. A first-team all-PNCLL selection, Blackmore not only finished third on the team in goals and assists, but drew a lot of attention, opening up opportunities for his teammates.
Key Returnee: Nick Johnston. The league’s defensive player of the year, Johnston always seemed to show up in the biggest games. Throw in a close defense that returns nearly intact, and Johnston could be on the verge of a monster year. Having a confident goalie is going to make Oregon a tough out in the tournament.
Wild Card: The schedule. With only one (potentially) meaningful game in the conference (Simon Fraser), the Ducks not only need another strong schedule, but also must win some critical contests to keep them ahead of the ever-expanding pack of possible at-large contenders. It’s difficult to envision that will actually be an issue with what Oregon has coming back, but it’s best to cover all the bases.
Reality: Last year was a baby step. There were some young players receiving a lot of time and a couple of key veterans trying to break them in. This is the year the Ducks should be ready to roll from the opening whistle of the season. They are extremely deep in the midfield, which generates a good percentage of their offense, and the defense could be one of the best in the country. If the attack can increase its output, Oregon could be returning to the salad days of 2007.