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Panthers complete SWC title surge

South Medford will enter the Class 6A state playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the state after beating North Medford 3-2 to clinch the Southwest Conference girls soccer championship Saturday at Hoffbuhr Field.

Toni Coleman scored what proved to be the game-winning goal on a one-on-one effort against the goalkeeper with a little under 10 minutes to go in the game — her second strike of the game — as the Panthers (9-5, 8-2 SWC) completed a month-long rebound from an 0-2 start to league play by handing their crosstown rivals a season-ending defeat.

“You know, it’s awesome,” said South Medford’s first-year head coach Kendra McMillan, whose team lost five of its first six games. “It’s just kind of the icing on top of the cake. It was a huge celebration, a huge feat, but also we respected our opponent and the people around us because we know how it feels (to lose).”

North Medford (2-7-4, 2-6-2) needed a win and some help in order to sneak into the state playoffs but fell short after losing for the third time in its last four games. Jaida Ross scored both goals for the Black Tornado, including one with four minutes to go, but South’s defense held late.

The Panthers, whose eight-game winning streak includes three one-goal victories, took a 1-0 lead when Coleman scored from about 15 yards out off a pass from Madelyn Pineda in the 14th minute.

Ross tied it up about 10 minutes later on a 35-yard free kick, a low, hard shot which zipped through a host of defenders and into the back of the net.

South reclaimed the lead in the 28th when Mikayla Titus scored off a Pineda corner kick.

Coleman’s second goal, and South’s final one, came on a breakaway as she sped past the defense before placing the ball in the bottom left-hand corner of the frame for a 3-1 lead.

“She just used her speed,” McMillen said.

North Medford coach Patrick Mangan said Tornado keeper Brinley O’Neill had several nice saves to keep the game close, and also credited midfielder Jazzlynn Ross with an outstanding performance.

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