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...
They call it "45" in the North Medford girls soccer circle.
It's a commonly practiced technique that worked to perfection on Tuesday night at Spiegelberg Stadium.
North midfielder Ashley Parker carefully dribbled the ball down the left flank and deep into South Medford territory before belting a cross near the end line with 5:31 left in overtime and the score even at 1.
The action forced South sophomore goalkeeper McKenzie Kapp to react and the ball was deflected.
Enter North junior forward Halley Folsom, who was just finishing off her run. She collected the ball and placed an accurate boot that helped seal the Black Tornado's 2-1 victory.
Simply put, the plan worked, North head coach Emily Miller said.
"We call it 45," she said. "It's when you get to the end line and try to angle the ball back across the top of the box. We've worked on crossing the ball in and putting something on it to get it in the back of the net."
The goal put an end to an emotional, physical Southern Oregon Hybrid match that North dedicated to senior Anna Smith, who suffered a compound fracture in a 5-0 win over Grants Pass on Sept. 25. The team hadn't played a home match since then and Black Tornado players were emotional as they honored their teammate.
"We needed to win this game for Anna," Folsom said as she cried. "And we did. We really wish she was there to play with us. She is still part of the team."
The Black Tornado came out of the gates strongest, dominating possession for much of the first half but missing a couple chances. Katie Peters overshot an open-goal attempt in the 14th minute and Folsom was just off to the left on a hard boot with 22:40 remaining in the first.
North finally cashed in when Amanda Hisey scored with her off foot from about 15 yards out on a Renae Rivero assist with 4:00 to go before halftime.
Hisey, a senior forward, was a thorn in South's side all night long. She threatened with three near goals in the second half, when the Panthers finally began to find their mojo.
South's strongest counter was the attacking play of junior Brittany Jensen, who sprinted and danced past North defenders a few times. Her close-range shot with 17:50 to go in regulation ricocheted off the left cross bar and then a breakaway chance created by her speed went slightly awry about eight minutes later.
South's Franny Gomez evened the score with 9:58 left in regulation on an assist from Erin Riley. The sophomore used a crossover to lose her defender and force North junior goalkeeper Bailey O'Connor to adjust. Then she sent the ball in from close range.
Folsom put an end to the deadlock with her good timing late in the OT session.
"It bounced off the goalie's hand and I was there to finish it," she said.
The scene was an emotional one afterward. Smith, who watched the game from the sidelines in a wheelchair, was carefully pushed along by teammates for the celebratory cool-down jog. After that, members of the South squad presented Smith with flowers, balloons and brownies.
The Black Tornado (4-3-1, 3-1 SOH) snapped a four-game winning streak by South (7-3, 3-1 SOH). Roseburg (4-3-1, 3-1 SOH), North and South are tied for first place in the league standings.
"We looked really sluggish and like we were on our heels in the first half and (we looked) surprised that they were energetic," South head coach Chris Hollejwin said. "And the fact is, we should have known that. We knew they would come out fired up. Honestly though, in the second half the momentum swung more our way and we got more momentum. In OT, I thought we had a ton of momentum and we broke our own momentum."
Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email email@example.com