Athletic directors at the Class 5A level have proven to be the most invested in controlling their own playoff destiny since a switch to the...
No matter what level of soccer, there's no escaping the reality that it's always fun to score goals.
A great deal of that elation comes from the simple fact that goals tend to be few and far between on the pitch, whether you're talking about an individual or an entire team.
That's where North Medford's girls soccer team has been breaking the mold this season, with junior forward Amanda Hisey at the forefront of a nearly unequaled offensive outburst by the Black Tornado.
Through 12 games, North Medford has found the back of the net a whopping 48 times and Hisey has accounted for 22 of those goals — two shy of Lu Crenshaw's single-season school record of 24.
"As a team we've scored a lot of goals, period," says first-year Black Tornado head coach Emily Miller, "but Amanda's a scoring machine, definitely. She's got one of the best strikes on the ball that I've seen, even in college. She's just nice and strong and fluid with the ball and technically she's just a gifted player."
Even with all that talent, Miller says the best factor Hisey has going for her is that she's not caught up in anything other than doing what's best for the team. She has three assists and helps open the attack for her teammates, with 12 of North's 16 field players scoring at least once this year and nine posting at least one assist.
"What's nice is that even with all those skills and talents and just being a very naturally athletic girl," says Miller, "she's still very humble and very much of a team player and very concerned about her teammates. You wouldn't think she's our leading scorer by the way she carries herself. In fact, sometimes I still have to make sure to tell her, 'Hey, you've got to shoot the ball.'"
Although she loves playing up front and having the opportunity to score, Hisey considers herself a piece of a very unique puzzle.
"I couldn't do any of it without my team," she insists. "It starts from our awesome sophomore goalie (Bailey O'Connor) and then works its way all the way up. They all put me in position and then I just see the goal and put it in."
That simple-as-that philosophy has paid off throughout the season, with Hisey scoring a goal in every game this year until having the streak snapped in Tuesday's 2-1 Southern Oregon Hybrid loss at Roseburg. She had a handful of opportunities in the game, none greater than a first-half shot off the crossbar, and later admitted some nerves on approaching Crenshaw's record and the notoriety that comes with such a chase.
"I don't really like all the spotlight on me but if the shot's there I definitely take it," says Hisey, 17. "I seem to pass it a lot more than I take the shot, though, I think."
Part of that is in the way Miller stresses that the Black Tornado (9-3, 6-1 SOH) plays the game.
"We try not to put weight on the amount of goals and who scores but instead put an emphasis on playing the game right and the goals will come from that," says the coach.
Only West Salem's 59 goals scored against 10 allowed stands above North's production thus far, although Tualatin (45 goals scored) and Thurston (42 goals scored) aren't far behind as the Black Tornado heads into its regular-season finale at 1 p.m. Saturday against South Medford (6-4-2, 3-2-2) at Hoffbuhr Field.
Tornado sophomore forward Halley Folsom pairs with Hisey to form a dynamic two-striker attack and has eight goals and five assists (four to Hisey), while senior Ashley Mitchell has five goals and one assist to round out the top three scorers for what is a deep talent pool to call upon.
"We don't have a weak spot at all," says Hisey, whose older brother Evan is a standout on the football team and leads the Southwest Conference in rushing yardage. "Anyone on our team could start on any of the other teams. We're pretty equaled out and when it comes to games, we definitely all go 100 percent. We all have a passion for the game, there's not one person out there just to be out there, and we all have the determination to win."
Adds Miller: "It's a very competitive bunch, it doesn't matter if it's a passing drill, they want to win."
That desire to never give in is something that certainly has served Hisey well since she began playing soccer in kindergarten. A handful of her goals have simply come from not accepting a lost ball deep in the other team's zone, and she's still working on trying not to take each missed shot personally.
"Anyone who plays forward will tell you it's frustrating to do all the work to get up there with a breakaway or whatever and then you hit the post or something," says Hisey. "You wish you would have done this or could have done that and it just gets to you sometimes. You've just got to keep playing and hopefully put the next one into the back of the net."
Fortunately for the Tornado, it's been more of the latter situation this season thanks to Hisey's uncanny ability to score.
"I think it's just my speed and the way I see the goal different than others," she says of her recipe to success. "I just know where the goal is without even having to see it so I can turn and shoot wherever I am."
Whether those opportunities arise Saturday or not against the Panthers doesn't concern Hisey, whose eye is on things beyond personal success.
"I definitely do want the record but that's not all I'm worried about," she says. "We have a big game coming up Saturday and I'm worried more about my team being conference champions and going on to the state playoffs. If I break the record I break it, but it's not my main focus."