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A day later, Ashland defeats North, 2-1

They battled through two days and 100 minutes of intense soccer. And two shootouts.

When the dust had settled, it was the Ashland Grizzlies who emerged with a hard-fought 2-1 boys soccer victory over North Medford on Wednesday at District Field on the North Medford campus.

Senior striker Ben Swatez booted a 15-yard, left-footed smash into the right corner of the net to give the Grizzlies the only goal of two 10-minute overtimes designed to settle a 1-1 tie between the two teams.

It's sweet to win this, said Swatez. We came out really fired up to win this. We knew we had to because North is a good team.

North is the best team we've played all year, said Swatez. I don't know how they lost to South Medford.

Swatez picked up an assist from Ashland midfieler Eric Harris, who scored the Grizzlies' lone goal in regulation time on Tuesday and booted home two goals in the 20-shot shootout that raged into the darkness at District Field.

Eric (Harris) made a perfect shot to me to keep me from going offsides when I made a run across the field toward the goal, said Swatez. The nice thing is that I kicked it in with my left foot.

Yesterday, I heard one of their coaches say I don't have a left foot, said Swatez. That makes this goal even sweeter.

The win gave Ashland a tie for the Southern Oregon Conference boys soccer championship along with South Medford and Grants Pass. The teams all finished with 6-1 records.

North finished fourth at 5-2 and will get the fourth position out of the SOC in the state playoffs. The Black Tornado will open in the Class 4A state playoffs next Tuesday at District Field.

Meanwhile, South Medford won a coin flip to be designated as the No. — team in the three-team playoffs for the SOC's top berth in the state playoffs. Grants Pass came out of the flip as the No. 2 team and will meet Ashland today at 2 p.m. at Mel Ingram Field in Grants Pass. The winner of that match will meet South Medford on Saturday.

Actually, I feel we have a pretty good draw in the fourth position, said North Medford coach Rich Garcia. We have a home game to get us started.

We found out two years ago that you don't have to have a top seed to do well at state, said Garcia, who coached North into the state championship game in 1996 before the Black Tornado fell to South Eugene.

Swatez said Wednesday's second confrontation against North was an emotional one. I'm a senior and this was my last regular-season game, he said. I wanted it to be a good. We wanted to be conference champions, even if it was a tie.

North had its chances to score in Wednesday's two 10-minute overtime sessions. Forward Jacob Wallin of North Medford smashed a shot off the right post of the goal in the first overtime and Chris Endrikat barely missed a shot to the left side of the goal from 15 yards out with time running out in the second overtime.

I'm happy with my kids, said Garcia. They came out and played hard from the start. We didn't have a lot of time in two 10-minute overtimes, but they (the Grizzlies) had the same problem.

Ashland is the best-passing team in the conference, said Garcia. We can learn from that. We could definitely pass better.

I think playing all those minutes against Ashland for two days will end up helping us a lot going into the playoffs, said Garcia. Ashland is a team that is deserving of first place.

Hopefully, this might move us up another level and prepare us for the playoffs, said Garcia.

North played without forward Jeff Zimmer, who was lost for at least two weeks on Tuesday with a separated shoulder.