Ducks Claim 2nd by Beating USC, 3-1

EUGENE, Ore. – Senior Nicole Garbin scored twice as Oregon closed out the regular season by defeating USC 3-1 Sunday before 627 fans at Pape' Field. Coupled with California's 1-0 defeat of Stanford, the Ducks finished second in the Pac-10, a high mark for the program by a landslide.

Oregon, 12-6-2 overall and 6-1-2 in the Pac-10, awaits its first-ever NCAA Tournament bid. The 2006 NCAA Tournament selection show will be broadcast Monday at noon on ESPNews.

"It's senior day; it's my day," said Garbin." All the luck was on our side. But today was kind of different because all the alumni were here and they've never been to the NCAA Tournament so I just felt like I kind of owed it to them."

Sunday certainly was a statement game for Oregon's two seniors. Rachel Grushkin, making her first start in two years and playing in just her third game of the season, helped get the Ducks on the scoreboard in the eighth minute when her header was deflected by USC goalkeeper Veronica Simonton to a wide-open Allison Newton, who blasted home a score from six yards out. It was Newton's sixth goal of the season.

Grushkin, from Eureka, Calif., earned the first assist of her career on the play.

"It was great that both seniors were able to contribute for us," said Oregon coach Tara Erickson. "When Rachel got the assist on (Newton's) goal, it motivated the whole team. I couldn't be happier for her."

USC, fighting for an NCAA Tournament bid of its own, would not go away. Duck nemesis Rosa Anna Tantillo got the equalizer in the 36th minute, taking a pass from Lauren Brown that slipped by a couple of Oregon defenders, and pushing a shot through the legs of Oregon keeper Jessie Chatfield from 13 yards out. It was Tantillo's third goal in the last two seasons against the Ducks.

Both goalkeepers made uncharacteristic mistakes in the match.

Three minutes before halftime, Simonton misplayed a ball that Garbin stole, and then dribbled past the Trojan keeper for an uncontested goal and a 2-1 lead. That goal proved to be the game-winner.

It was the Ducks' first-ever win against the Trojans, 10-4-5, 3-2-4, in 11 all-time meetings.

Garbin put the game away in the 77th minute when she chased down a long pass from midfielder Dani Oster to set up a one-on-one with Simonton. The senior from Wailuku, Hawaii, squeezed a shot past Simonton just inside the right post.

Garbin rewrote the Oregon record book for the second consecutive day. She scored her 11th and 12th goals of the season, surpassing the mark of 10 she set last year. She also upped her season point total to 25 (12 goals, 1 assist), breaking her own mark of 22 points from her sophomore year of 2003. Garbin added to two season marks she already set in 2006 with her ninth game-winning goal, in addition to the shots record -- now up to 84.

"Garbin helped by pressing and defending today," said Erickson. "She was kind of lurking and anticipating and that's how she ended up with both goals. People don't realize how fast she is and how much space she takes up."

The sixth-year senior, appearing in her 76th career game to tie Allyssa White for the top spot on the UO list, added to the myriad of school records she owns -- now at 19 and counting. Among those (with her totals following Sunday's game) are career goals (34), game-winning goals (22), multi-goal games (6), points (83) and shots (257).

"I don't think you can summarize Nicole Garbin in one sentence," said Erickson. "She has done more than even I thought was possible -- blew all of my expectations out of water. She's such a better and more complete player right now than at any time she's been in her career. She's truly become a program-changing player this season."

Sunday was also significant from the standpoint that Oregon, which was picked to finish last in the preseason coaches' poll, finished second in the league, a point better than Stanford which was the only Pac-10 team to beat the Ducks in 2006. UCLA wrapped up its fourth straight title by routing Oregon State 4-0 on Sunday to earn 24 points with an 8-1 mark.

The Ducks had 20 points, one more than Stanford's 19 (6-2-1). Washington State finished fourth with 14 points, while the Trojans ended up fifth with 13. Oregon's previous best Pac-10 finish was seventh place on four different occasions.

"It's nice not to finish last in the Pac-10 like everyone thought we would," said junior defender Dylann Tharp. "We knew we could do it. The confidence that we take from this weekend will definitely carry into the tournament."

Coupled with Friday's 2-1 upset of No. 3 UCLA, Sunday's win marked Oregon's first-ever sweep of the L.A. schools, and just the third Pac-10 sweep in program history -- one of which came earlier this season against Arizona and Arizona State.

The shots were fairly even with the Trojans holding a 14-11 edge. Chatfield made four saves to earn the victory.

"I think we were tired today, but emotionally we were ready to play," said Erickson. "We capitalized on our chances. Everyone who played today contributed and did their jobs. We battled through some fatigue and put the game away."

GAME NOTES: With six goals and four assists, Newton is quietly putting together one of the finest seasons ever by an Oregon midfielder...her six goals is tied for eighth on the single-season list, the four assists is tied for seventh and her 16 points ranks 10th...injured seniors Kate Nelson and Emily Marrer joined Grushkin and Garbin in being honored in pregame ceremonies...sophomore midfielder Jen Cameron was held out of Sunday's game as a precaution after slightly injuring her knee Friday against UCLA.

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