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Huskies in hunt for first conference title since 2000

Head coach Jamie Clark has led the UW to 7-1-0 and 6-1-1 records in the final eight games of the two regular seasons he’s been on Montlake. This year’s edition of that sequence begins Monday at 7 p.m., when the undefeated Huskies (8-0-3) take on Oregon State in their first contest at Husky Soccer Stadium since Sept. 27.

Four of the UW’s remaining fixtures are against teams without a win in conference play this year. The Beavers are one of those teams. But the Huskies learned in Clark’s first season to never overlook their opponent from Corvallis, Ore.

“A loss to OSU two years ago likely left us out of the NCAA tournament,” the UW’s head coach said. “So it’s clear any team is good enough to beat any team. All of our older guys realize that every game is hard-fought. Conference games are easy motivation.”

The Huskies and Beavers each played at Stanford and No. 1 California during the first week of this month. Oregon State came up short in both matches, while the UW was unscathed on its road trip.

Senior center back Taylor Peay netted half of the UW’s goals in that two-game set off corner kicks. The Huskies have been dynamite on set pieces all year. Clark has his defenders move into the box for corners and flip throw-ins by Michael Harris, and it has resulted in at least one score this season by each starting inside and outside back.

“Our team’s ability to be dangerous around the goal helps take pressure off our forwards and team as a whole,” Harris said. “Being able to score on set pieces has helped our team jump out to early leads against teams or come back and tie teams. Our attitude as a team is to put it in the back of the net — doesn’t matter who or how.”

The Huskies will be without starting midfielder Ian Lange for most of their remaining Pac-12 schedule. Lange had surgery on an injured meniscus, and Clark said the sophomore should be back in his lineup before the end of the regular season.

Despite missing Lange’s presence for the past three matches, the Huskies still boast a higher goals-per-game average and a lower goals-against average than top-ranked Cal.

Last Tuesday, the UW played its second game in a three-day span for the second time this year. The Huskies have had five much-needed days away from the pitch to prepare for the Beavers.

“This week was more about rest and recovery than anything else,” Clark said. “Guys look good, and I think we’ll be back to 100 percent by Monday night.”

If the UW beats Oregon State and then San Diego State — an associate member of the Pac-12 for men’s soccer — on Friday, it will be in the hunt for its first conference title in more than a decade.

Reach reporter Justin Lester at sports@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @JustinDLester

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