The 2008 Oregon State women's soccer team was so offensively challenged that coach Linus Rhode would have been concerned had an offside infraction nullified a go-ahead goal midway through the second half.
A year later, however, there's a new feeling on the pitch. So although Melissa Peck's apparent go-ahead goal at 66:46 was waved off, Rhode and the Beavers knew it was just a matter of time before they would score again to break a 1-1 standoff with No. 21 Denver at Lorenz Field in the finale of the OSU Nike Challenge.
Four minutes later, their faith was rewarded. Chelsea Buckland headed a perfect crossing pass from Jayne Eadie into the upper left corner for a 2-1 lead at 68:37, and Peck headed Rachael Axon's pinpoint pass over goalie Maria Kahn at 79:14 for the clincher in a 3-1 victory over the Pioneers.
It was the seventh consecutive win for the Beavers (7-1-0), the second-longest streak in the program's 22-year history. Their record is nine wins in a row, set in 1994 when they played at the old Women's Building field and Val Williams led them to their lone NCAA tournament berth.
"This year they just keep pushing, and they believe they're going to score and come back," Rhode said of the Beavers, who've outscored their opponents 17-4 during the hot streak. "Today it was just a matter of time.
"We're starting to come together, starting to take care of the little things when we have the ball and we are working extremely hard defensively. It's paying off."
Denver's (5-4-1) Emily Stewart scored at 1:49 on a goalmouth scramble after a corner kick, but the Beavers generally controlled the action from that point on. They outshot the Pioneers 10-4 in the first half and 21-6 overall, had a 6-3 edge in corner kicks and owned midfield.
Kahn replaced injured starter Lara Campbell (shoulder) at 33:52 and was almost immediately burned by Courtney Wetzell's tying goal, on a direct kick into the left corner from the top of the circle. She had several excellent saves but the Beavers were relentless and eventually broke through, even though they faced a stiff headwind in the second half.
"The girls dealt with it, and just got on with their business," Rhode said.
Peck is one of six seniors enjoying the longest stretch of sustained success in their OSU careers. The Beavers won just six games in 2008, Rhode's first season as head coach; they had seven wins in 2007, eight in 2006, and were 2-22-3 in Pacific-10 Conference games during that span.
"We've been in the building (process) these past three years," Peck said. "To finally win some games, against some pretty good teams, it's kind of special.
"It's the fight and desire we have. We haven't been scored on in the first minute for a while. We dug ourselves a hole, but we got right back on our feet and carried it out from there."
OSU sophomore defender Kristen Carmichael injured her right knee in a collision at 29:44 and did not return. She walked off the field under her own power after the game, the knee encased in an ice bag. Denver goalie Campbell also did not return and her right arm was in a sling afterward.
The Beavers play at Portland at 7 p.m. Friday.
Oregon State 3, Denver 1
DU: Stewart (Beardsley), 1:49
OSU: Wetzel, 36:04
OSU: Buckland (Eadie, Folsom), 68:37
OSU: Peck (Axon), 79:14