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Tornado girls fall short against Skyhawks

By the time North Medford finally found solid footing during Tuesday's second-round matchup with Southridge in the Class 6A girls soccer state playoffs, the damage had already been done at Hoffbuhr Field.

Be it nerves, inexperience, muddy conditions or a combination of them all, the Black Tornado struggled out of the gates against a proven Metro League foe and found itself down 2-0 in the 33rd minute of play.

Try as they might to recover — senior Sarah Chambers netted a penalty kick early in the second half — the North girls simply couldn't get over the hump in suffering their first lost of the season, 2-1 to the Skyhawks.

"It's frustrating because the second half we definitely outplayed them," said Tornado senior Amber Black. "The fact that we couldn't get one in besides Sarah's PK is disappointing. Your emotions fly up and they fly down and it's hard to keep it going when you miss so many opportunities, but we tried."

Making its 16th straight appearance in the state playoffs, the Black Tornado (13-1-2) was looking to reach the quarterfinals for the first time since 1998. Instead, it will be the Skyhawks (10-5-2), who clearly played like they were on a mission from the opening touch.

Southridge dominated possession throughout the first half but received a bit of good fortune in the 10th minute when a ball was played into North goalkeeper Amanda Tonkin, who couldn't secure the high bounce in front of her and could only watch helplessly as Anisa Maza of Southridge tapped the ball into the net from point-blank range at 10:23 of the first half.

Maza again played a key role 20 minutes later when she kept Hayley Petersen from clearing the ball, dribbled right to the end line and sneaked a crossing pass to Andie Giles, who directed the ball into the net from 6 yards out.

"Playing uphill is hard for teams," said Southridge head coach Jeffrey Lim. "Those two early goals gave us some rhythm and got them on their heels a little bit. They rebounded and put us under pressure for about 25 minutes there in the second half but we continued to play hard. Our league prepares us for games like this."

Having faced the likes of Jesuit, Sunset and Westview — the top three teams in the 6A power rankings — already this season as Metro counterparts, the fourth-place Skyhawks were definitely not in awe of the situation they faced on Tuesday.

"We've been in a lot of tight games, both winning and losing, so it prepares us mentally for what we need to get done," added Lim. "Today we were fortunate enough to be successful with that."

The second half brought forth more of the North Medford team fans had seen throughout the season, with Black and Chambers seemingly all over the field and sophomores Amanda Hisey and McKensie Ragan supplying complementary efforts.

Chambers helped set up the Tornado's first true scoring opportunity with a dribble drive and dump off to junior Kimmy Parker, who gathered the ball and was taken down inside the goal box when she turned the ball toward the goal. Chambers deftly slipped a low shot to the right corner with 47:56 gone in the contest.

Still with 32 minutes to pull the match even, North Medford turned on the jets and made solid runs at the goal, only to be denied every time with shots that either hit the post, sailed high or couldn't find the right touch before the Skyhawks swarmed in to defend.

Hisey had a great ball hit off the far post, just ahead of Black's run to that side. Black followed moments later with a nice cross that just eluded Parker, and it went like that for the Tornado for a solid 14-minute span that saw opportunity after opportunity go awry.

"After that (goal by Chambers) we just kept pressuring and pressuring but, you know, it just wasn't our day today," said North Medford head coach Rich Garcia. "There were so many so close. It wasn't that the keeper made great saves, it was us, we just couldn't get that ball in there."

Southridge was able to control the ball from about the nine-minute mark until two minutes were left to catch a breath, but the Southern Oregon Hybrid champions brought one last storm of activity at goalkeeper Katie Maginnis that saw three corner kicks sent into the box.

North's best chance to score came with 1:10 to go when Chambers made a nice move to the end line and found a seam to make a left-footed cross that got past Maginnis and found its way to an open Parker on the far side. Instead of a quick re-direct, however, Parker was only able to settle the ball with her midsection and that allowed Southridge to close in for a deflection.

"We've got to learn from this," said Garcia, speaking about a host of underclassmen who saw time this season for North. "I'm losing some good seniors in Sarah Chambers, Amber Black, Becca Allen ... but we've got a lot of good players coming up. Hopefully we can learn and be able to take the next step next time."

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@mailtribune.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry