Panthers get early goal but can’t hang on in 2-1 loss to Wolverines
It was only a few weeks ago that the South Medford boys soccer team saw what Willamette’s high-powered attack was capable of when it’s going at full flight.
The Wolverines’ trip to Spiegelberg Stadium proved to be a different story.
South Medford took the lead within three minutes to set an early tone, but Willamette rallied with two goals within a six-minute span late in the first half en route to a 2-1 win over the Panthers in Southwest Conference action Saturday afternoon.
“Besides the goals that were a couple of mistakes — and they are correctable mistakes — the game was very even, in my opinion,” said South Medford head coach Claudio Villa. “I don’t feel like we lost because they played better than us, but it was just a couple of silly mistakes that we made.
“We knew we were playing the highest-scoring team in our conference, so to hold them only at 2-1 and in this close of a match, kudos to the whole team defensively speaking.”
Behind a four-goal day from Ariel de Dios Cruz, Willamette rolled to a 6-0 win over South in the teams’ first meeting on Sept. 24.
Willamette entered Saturday’s game as the highest scoring team in the SWC with 41 goals in 12 games, one of just four teams in Class 6A to score 40 or more goals so far this season.
But it was South Medford (6-6-1, 4-5-1 SWC) that struck first.
Senior forward Alex Rodriguez saw his left-footed shot from outside of the box saved by the Willamette keeper, but the rebound wasn’t fully cleared. It fell to the feet of sophomore forward Alexie Reyes, who was able to follow up the shot and slot it away to put the Panthers ahead 1-0.
“I think anytime a team scores early in the game, it just mentally and naturally gives you the extra boost,” said Villa. “That goal definitely gave us the extra boost morally, physically.”
The emphasis coming in for South, understandably, was on the defensive end, and for much of the game that played out about as well as Villa could have hoped.
“With the chat we had, we said that in this sport, defense comes first,” said Villa. “Defensively we have to play our roles, and we can’t attack first and try to defend — it doesn’t go that way. The nature of this sport is you defend first and once you defend well we figure out how we’re going to get the goals in our favor. That was in our head the whole game — we had to defend first and we’ll figure out how to get the goals in our favor later.”
The Wolverines — who have won five straight — struck quick to flip the score in their favor.
Willamette tied the game in the 30th minute when Papa Yansane was able to head home a corner kick. Less than six minutes later, Eli Brown made a run down the right wing and sent in a cross to de Dios Cruz, who like Yansane rose up to head home the cross to put the Wolverines up 2-1.
The Panthers had a handful of chances in the second half to even things up, but weren’t able to convert.
South keeper Silvano Pineda made a pair of big saves in 1-on-1 situations in the second half as the Panthers pushed forward to try and get the tying goal.
“The game was pretty even,” said Villa. “We played well. We had a couple of kids coming back from illness and the boys gave their best effort.”
South’s Felix Valenzuela, a junior, had a strong game playing in the defensive midfield role and was a threat in both the offensive and defensive phase, Villa said.
“He had a great game,” said the coach. “He was very disciplined when it came to the tactical piece and he held our offense and defense together. He was our glue today.”
ASHLAND 4, CHURCHILL 0: At Ashland, freshman Luis Uhtoff and junior Cash Cota each registered a pair of goals and junior Aiden Espinoza came off the bench for some heroics in goal to keep a clean sheet in the Midwestern League match.
Uhtoff stripped the ball from the Churchill fullback and, after both went to the ground, the young Grizzly was able to get up first and quickly slot a low shot into the left side of the net.
Ashland goalkeeper Mateo Moore kept it at 1-0 into halftime with a nice save on a Lancers effort, but then had to exit the game in the 45th minute when he picked up a yellow card for fouling a Churchill player on a collision in the box. With Moore having to go off for a play, Espinoza came in and stopped the ensuing penalty kick that was low and to his left.
The save breathed new life into Ashland (4-3-2, 2-0-1 MWL), and Espinoza remained in goal as the Grizzlies put the contest away with a Cota goal from an assist by Uhtoff and then the teammates traded roles for another goal moments later.
Ashland closed with a Cota goal in the 78th minute off a nice through ball from Ravi Guerrero, who teamed with Lupin Paz to control the midfield for the Grizzlies.
Tinahe Mambira was a steady contributor on the attack for Churchill (5-7, 1-2).
CRATER 2, NORTH EUGENE 1: At Eugene, Lucas Chacon scored the clinching goal in the 63rd minute on a header following a cross from Tucker Hopkins to lift Crater to the Midwestern League win.
Gabe Grant got the scoring going for Crater (5-1-3, 2-0-1 MWL) in the first half with a strike to the corner off a pass from Cooper Hopkins up the middle.
North Eugene (2-6-2, 0-3) answered around the 56-minute mark on a cross and miss by the Comets’ center defenders to tie it up.
Diego Estrada had four solid saves in goal to preserve the winning opportunity for Crater.
THURSTON 2, EAGLE POINT 1: At Springfield, Eagle Point tallied first with a goal in the 55th minute on a shot outside the box by Moses Angel, but a pair of scramble goals soon after allowed Thurston to claim the MWL victory.
Andre Ramirez and goalkeeper Trenton Silani anchored a strong defensive effort by the Eagles (3-5, 0-2 MWL).
Thurston/Mohawk (3-5-2, 1-1) scored on mirror image efforts following long throw-ins into the box that bounced around until finally someone was able to direct the ball into the net. The first goal came in the 60th minute and the go-ahead goal soon followed.
ST. MARY’S 4, BROOKINGS-HARBOR 0: Jose Mondesi scored in the fifth minute on an assist by Konrad Aretz and St. Mary’s cruised from there to remain undefeated in District 5 play at L&D Fields.
Leandro Cronk scored in the 19th minute after gathering a deflected pass, and Chris Kranenburg’s free kick from just outside the 18-yard box allowed the Crusaders (10-1, 10-0 Dist. 5) to carry a 3-0 lead into the break.
In the final half, Cronk was taken down in the box to earn a penalty kick that Ben Lee delivered into the back of the net.
Davis Jones and Dang Nguyen combined in goal for the shutout.
SOUTH MEDFORD 4, WILLAMETTE 2: At Eugene, South Medford junior Brooke Fairbanks and sophomore Avery Zahniser each scored a pair of goals and had an assist as the Panthers bounced back from a tough 3-2 loss less than 24 hours earlier against No. 7-ranked Sheldon.
Willamette took an early lead before Fairbanks scored on an assist by Zahniser in the 25th minute for South Medford (8-4-1, 5-4-1 SWC).
After the Wolverines (6-5-2, 4-5-2) scored again to take a 2-1 lead into halftime, South Medford stirred it up with a dominant second half of play that resulted in a tying goal by Zahniser off a Fairbanks assist in the 48th minute and back-to-back goals in the 65th and 66th minutes by the Panther duo on assists by Mia Kalina.
On Friday night, South Medford held a 2-all tie with the league-leading Irish (10-1-1, 8-1-1) on goals by Zahniser and Anga Tahuna but Sheldon scored the go-ahead goal in the final three minutes of play.
ASHLAND 4, CHURCHILL 0: At Ashland, Lena Caballero Uhtoff scored a pair of goals and Ashland posted yet another shutout in picking up a second straight Midwestern League win.
Caballero Uhtoff gave Ashland (7-0-1, 2-0-1 MWL) a 1-0 lead with a goal off an assist from Brianna Gibbs. The Grizzlies doubled their lead eight minutes before halftime on an own goal by Churchill (2-10, 1-2).
In the 61st minute, Caballero Uhtoff took a pass from Jane Cruce and scored her second goal of the day to put the Grizzlies ahead 3-0.
Cruce added a fourth goal for Ashland with less than two minutes to go.
Ashland outshot Churchill 19-5, with Grizzlies keeper Esme Barnes having to only make two saves in her team’s seventh shutout of the season.
NORTH EUGENE 4, CRATER 0: At Eugene, fifth-ranked North Eugene scored 23 seconds into the match to put Crater on its heels and the Comets were unable to convert on the handful of opportunities they created in the Midwestern League loss.
With Addison Dippel going down with an injury and fellow starter Harrisen Poe also largely unavailable due to injury, sophomore Kallie Michaelis stepped up in the center back role and proved to be the player of the match for Crater (3-7-1, 0-3 MWL).
Kamdyn Johnson had a pair of good efforts on goal for the Comets, one coming off a one-touch drive following a corner kick by Kelsey Sakraida, who also anchored the backline with Autumn Jackson.
North Eugene/Triangle Lake improved to 7-3-1 overall and 2-0-1 in league.
THURSTON 8, EAGLE POINT 0: At Springfield, Midwestern League-leading Thurston, ranked No. 6 in the 5A coaches’ poll, improved to 8-2 overall and 2-0 in league play with the dominant effort.
Eagle Point dropped to 2-3-1 and 0-2 in MWL play.
KLAMATH UNION 3, PHOENIX 1: At Klamath Falls, Phoenix sophomore Carsyn Gallegos slotted a beautiful 30-yard shot just under the crossbar to give her team a 1-0 lead in the eighth minute but the Pirates weren’t able to make that hold up in Skyline Conference play.
Klamath Union (6-5, 2-3 Skyline) tied the match in a confusing moment prior to halftime on a play that was initially ruled a foul and then allowed to play on against Phoenix (3-8, 1-5), then scored twice in the second half to pull away.
South Medford’s Alexie Reyes and Willamette’s Danny Sifuentes battle for the ball during the 1st half at Spiegelberg Stadium in Medford Saturday. [Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune].
South Medford’s Felix Valenzuela and Willamette’s Roy Arroyo fight for the ball in the air at Spiegelberg Stadium in Medford Saturday. [Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune].
South Medford’s Alexie Reyes celebrates after scoring during the 1st half at Spiegelberg Stadium in Medford Saturday. [Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune].
South Medford’s Eloy Saucedo shoots the ball during the 1st half against Willamette at Spiegelberg Stadium in Medford Saturday. [Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune].
South Medford’s Alexie Reyes controls the ball during the 1st half against Willamette at Spiegelberg Stadium in Medford Saturday. [Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune].