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UW looking for share of Pac-12 title with win over OSU on final matchday

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UW looking for share of Pac-12 title with win over OSU on final matchday

Khai Brisco (right) and the other players celebrate Nick Scardina's (left) goal during the secondt half of Washington's game against Oregon State at Husky Soccer Stadium on Oct. 22, 2021.

Going into the final match of the Pac-12 season, the No. 3 Washington men’s soccer team finds itself with an opportunity to win the conference title for the first time since 2019. 

However, a strong No. 1 Oregon State team that handed UW its only loss of the season stands in the way.

The scenario for Thursday night’s match is similar to the one Washington found itself in just months ago when it played Stanford on the final match day. However, in the spring, the Huskies lost agonizingly in overtime against the Cardinal, losing the 2020 Pac-12 title by the thinnest of margins.

“I think the more big games you play, the more comfortable you are,” head coach Jamie Clark said. “We’ve put ourselves in those situations a lot over the last three years."

"We’ve seen it be done before which is good. These are just tight games and that’s how we look at it. Even though it will be a super close, tightly contested match, we’ll be ready for it.” 

This season, the Huskies (14-1-1, 6-1-1 Pac-12) play another juggernaut in the Beavers (12-2-2, 7-1-1 Pac-12), who have been one of the nation’s best teams this season, consistently ranked in the top five of the national polls and currently ranked first.

However, OSU goes into Thursday’s showdown coming off a loss — its second this season. Prior to a 2-3 loss against the Bruins, the Beavers had been unbeaten in 11 consecutive matches.

Although Washington and Oregon State have both lost and drawn once this season, the Beavers have already claimed a share of the Pac-12 title. This is because the Huskies have played one less game due to their match against Cal being ruled a no contest as a result of poor weather and concern for player safety.

While a win Thursday would give the Huskies a better winning percentage than the Beavers, UW would still be level on points as a result of the no contest.

One of the key reasons for the success of the Beavers has been their offensive firepower.

The Huskies will have to be vigilant of forward Adrian Molina-Diaz and midfielder Tyrone Mondi, who are the top two scorers in the Pac-12, combining for 14 goals. Forward Tsiki Ntsabeleng has also been a productive feature of the OSU offense, providing six assists. Mondi has already scored against Washington in a five-goal thriller earlier this season.

“Tsiki [Ntsabeleng] and Tyrone [Mondi], those guys are very talented,” Clark said. “I think we can step our lines higher and release our fullback to pressure. They like to pressure [as well], but they don’t like to defend, so if we can get the ball in their half and actually make them defend, I think there’ll be lots of holes available.”

In that match at Husky Soccer Stadium in October, the Beavers came out on top 3-2. However, the game was largely influenced by two UW red cards which opened the door for OSU.

The Huskies who played with 10 men for over half the match, and with nine for the final 30 minutes, showed resilience against one of the best teams in the country. While the Beavers ended up scoring in the final 10 minutes to secure the win, the Huskies were difficult to break down defensively, even with two fewer players.

“It almost took us going down a goal, first of all, and then a man, second of all, to start to play the way that we wanted,” Clark said. “I think it showed that we’re capable, but it was a good lesson for what will be our first step [early in games]. We have to keep composure if we want the results we expect.”

Defense has been a defining feature of Washington’s season. UW has the third-best goals against average in the nation, surrendering less than half a goal per match on average. Additionally, the Huskies have not conceded in their three matches since losing to the Beavers. Oregon State was the only team to score more than one goal against Washington this season.

Washington will kick off against Oregon State for a share of the Pac-12 title in Corvallis, Oregon on Thursday, Nov. 11 at 6 p.m.

Reach senior staff reporter Luka Kučan at Twitter: @luka_kucan

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