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North pulls away from Cavers

Fifth-ranked Black Tornado starts slow but heats up thanks to spark by Batzer

The fifth-ranked North Medford girls soccer team is typically a slow-starting group, and Tuesday was no different.

In its usual fashion, however, the Black Tornado took its play up a notch in a 3-0 victory over Grants Pass in Southern Oregon Conference action at Hoffbuhr Field.

Junior midfielder Alex Batzer scored two goals and freshman forward Jessica Reid added another as the Tornado improved to an SOC-best 12-0.

North Medford needed overtime to take out Grants Pass, 2-1, the first time the teams met.

It was a little different than last game, but the result was still the same, said North coach Dick Darcy. We're kind of notorious for our slow starts, but the girls really controlled the game after the first 10 minutes or so.

— Grants Pass (7-5 SOC), which remained third in league, was flying around the field and winning the majority of 50-50 balls in the opening minutes of the contest.

But Batzer's goal, a one-touch beauty on a rebound attempt, in the 30th minute changed the momentum and put the Cavers on their heels for the rest of the game.

We finally caught up and started playing better, said Batzer. We played a lot of keepaway and did a good job of finishing balls.

Grants Pass, meanwhile, struggled to cross midfield against North's defense.

We've got the flu bug running around, said GP coach Hector Cruz, who was without ill defender Maddie Higgins. We have about five or six girls with symptoms.

Still, the girls played with a lot of heart. I knew we'd run out of gas sooner or later. There wasn't much in the tank to begin with.

Reid pounced for a goal five minutes after Batzer's initial score.

Sophomore Ashley Chambers helped set up the goal when she booted a cross toward goal. Senior midfielder Shauna Spano ran under it and had two attempts from close range batted away in a pile of Grants Pass defenders. The ball then bounded to an open Reid, who deposited the game's second goal into the right corner.

The second half was more of the same for North Medford.

The Black Tornado whipped the ball around with ease against the Cavers, and Batzer cashed in on the superb ball movement in the 53rd minute with a high-arching shot off the fingertips of GP goalkeeper Christa Krug.

Alex is an inspiration to us all, said Darcy. She works her tail off out there.

The defense, though, was the focal point as North scored its seventh shutout of the season.

Defenders Caitlin Engle, Alicia Stormberg and Chambers and goalkeeper Megan Ross stymied any chance the Cavers had at hanging close.

I'm definitely blessed to have a defense like that, said Darcy. Megan has to be the best keeper in the league ... Alicia, Caitlin and Ashley, they all do a tremendous job.

North Medford travels to play Roseburg Saturday, then heads to Spiegelberg Stadium for a chance to clinch an unbeaten season against rival South Medford.

Batzer knows what's at stake but is excited about the possibilities.

It means a lot to me, she said. My highest ambition in life is to play soccer.

I'm proud of our team 'cause we're really young and we've had a great season. Even though we do dumb things sometimes, we always come back to do something to make up for it.

North pulls away from Cavers"kgoff@mailtribune.com.

North Medford?s Irene Kendig, left, works the ball toward the goal past Grants Pass? Krista Solomon on Tuesday. Mail Tribune / Roy Musitelli - Mail Tribune Roy Musitelli