Denver Drops Ducks in Semifinal

EUGENE – University of Denver freshman Karen Morton accounted for five goals and two assists while the Pioneers closed the first half with four unanswered goals during the final 11 minutes to provide the conference's No. 1 seed with a comfortable 14-6 win over the University of Oregon in the semifinals of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament Saturday afternoon at Pape' Field.

Morton, who earlier in the week was named the MPSF newcomer of the year, scored four of her five goals in the first half, including one during a crucial eight-minute stretch that saw Denver take advantage of several Oregon turnovers to extend a 5-4 lead to 9-4 at the intermission.

The Pioneers' Stephanie Greenlees opened the scoring 2 minutes, 25 seconds into the contest before the Ducks' Jana Bradley countered with a pair of goals to provide Oregon with its lone advantage of the afternoon, 2-1, with 22:59 remaining in the first half. The lead was short-lived as Denver tied the score at 2-2 54 seconds later before Morton added her first of four consecutive goals for the winners, who improved their overall record to 15-4.

Bradley led Oregon for the second straight day with three goals as it evened its season record at 9-9.

After the Ducks tied the score at 3-3 at the 17:23 mark on Bradley's third goal, Morton answered with two more goals during a 51-second stretch. Sophomore Erin Gaebe cut the Oregon deficit to 5-4 on a free position shot with 15:11 to play in the first half before Denver when on its four-goal run to close the opening 30 minutes.

Oregon quickly tried to get back into the game in the second half with an Alison Leiner goal 10 seconds into the second period cutting the deficit to 9-5, but Denver's aggressive play refused to allow the Ducks to put together any momentum as it put the game away with four unanswered goals in the final 8:56 of the game.

"Denver just came to play today," said a disappointed Oregon head coach Jen Larsen. "They had upperclassmen who just shot to score, we've got Anna (Poponyak) trying to make saves but when you get outshot like we did today, there's no way you can win a game,"

Poponyak recorded 10 of her 17 saves in the first half as the Ducks' goalie, while Denver outshot Oregon in the opening half, 24-17. Denver finished the game with a 41-27 advantage in shots on goals.

"The defense cannot allow that many shots on Anna and the offense has got to get that many quality shots off but they weren't quality today."

The Ducks' defense was able to hold the MPSF's leading scorer and most valuable player, Kristie Leggio, scoreless Saturday, but couldn't contain Morton and Greenlees, with the latter accounting for four goals and one assist. On the other hand, Oregon could muster only one assist as a team while its second and third-leading scorers of the season, Ilsa van den Berg and Jen May, were held scoreless.

Oregon suffered a one-point loss to Denver earlier in the year in Eugene, 14-13, but Saturday proved to be a different story.

"We're definitely disappointed but we just have to make the best of it and know that they were the No. 1-seeded team," Bradley said. "Our team is full of heart but I just felt that maybe (Denver) had a little bit more confidence coming into this game. I just don't think that we capitalized on their mistakes as much as we could have."

Oregon will meet California at 11 a.m. Sunday in the consolation contest while Denver will face Stanford for the MPSF tournament championship at 1 p.m.

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