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PREP SOCCER: Ashland halts playoff drought

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ASHLAND — For all the success the Ashland boys soccer team has enjoyed over the years, the state playoffs haven’t exactly been all that kind to the Grizzlies.

With that knowledge, Ashland was bent on two goals entering this season: Win a Midwestern League championship and, for goodness sake, don’t lose again in the first round of the Class 5A state playoffs.

The Grizzlies accomplished the former one week ago, then left nothing to chance Wednesday in accomplishing the latter with a 4-0 triumph over visiting Parkrose.

The win snapped a streak of four straight years in which Ashland had bowed out of the playoffs in the first round. The Grizzlies’ last playoff win had come via a 1-0 triumph — settled 4-2 by penalty kicks — against Liberty in the 2014 opening round.

“It was a relief, a big-time relief just to say we did it,” Ashland head coach Abdiaziz Guled said of Wednesday’s post-game celebration. “They all just really enjoyed it, but we also have Hood River Valley coming to town Saturday so we have to get ready for that right now.”

Seventh-seeded Hood River Valley scored a 3-0 win over West Albany in their first-round match. Guled said Saturday’s quarterfinals match likely would be played in Ashland at either 6 or 7 p.m.

There was no escaping the magnitude of the moment Wednesday at Walter A. Phillips Field, according to Guled, especially with a leading group of seniors who had experienced three straight opening-game losses.

The second-seeded Grizzlies (10-2-3) did their best to put No. 15 seed Parkrose away early, with junior Carson Pindell breaking through the defense to run onto a pass by sophomore Davidson Graham. Once he finally collected the ball in scoring position, Pindell knew exactly what to do with it by sending a low shot underneath the goalkeeper to the far post in the 15th minute.

Parkrose (7-6-2) nearly matched that effort one minute later on a direct kick by senior Gabe Gothro, but junior goalkeeper Gabe Giancarlo came up with a huge save to keep the Broncos at bay.

Just as fast as Parkrose was able to counter, Ashland did likewise in the 17th minute, only this time a goal was registered when senior midfielder Scott Gustafson stole the ball from a defender and won a one-on-one duel with the goalie. Guled credited Gustafson for applying a lot of pressure throughout the match and controlling the midfield.

That 2-0 advantage held up through halftime and well into the second half thanks to the efforts of Giancarlo, who had four saves, and a defense barricade put forth by Michael Holden, Milan Pyle, Tali Parowski, Pindell and Kona Makai.

“All those guys just stepped up really well and did a great job on the defensive back line,” said Guled.

Holden made a run from the back and added an insurance goal for Ashland in the 72nd minute off another assist by Graham, and then the Grizzlies salted the match away in the 78th minute when junior Rio Giancarlo played a long shot inside the far post for the final margin of victory.

“It shocked everybody that it was going to go in,” said Guled of his team’s final goal. “It was just a beautiful shot.”

Senior Zander Huston spelled Gabe Giancarlo late in the second half and registered his own dramatic save on a direct shot by Gothro to preserve Ashland’s seventh clean sheet of the season.

“One of the goals the kids had was to be a conference champion and not lose in the first round,” said Guled, “and to see those things come through for them is just wonderful.”

NORTH SALEM 2, EAGLE POINT 1: At Eagle Point, holding the lead with its first program playoff victory in sight, Eagle Point was charged with a controversial red card that put the Eagles at a one-player disadvantage over the final 30 minutes, which North Salem took advantage of to wear the Eagles down and eventually score two goals in the final seven minutes for a Class 5A first-round playoff upset.

Fourth-seeded Eagle Point (10-3-2), amid the best season in program history with its first double-digit win total, most goals scored and least goals allowed, owned a 1-0 lead about 10 minutes into the second half when an on-the-field altercation between Eagle Point’s Mathew Angel and a player from North Salem took place.

In an attempt to stop the situation from escalating, EP leading scorer Jaydyn Budrow got between the two parties and shoved them apart. Budrow was then dealt a red card and disqualified for violating conduct, putting the Eagles a man down for the rest of the contest.

Eagle Point had owned possession of the ball in the first half and got on the scoreboard when Budrow found Alex Rodriguez with a cross and Rodriguez obliged with a goal in the 32nd minute for a 1-0 advantage.

With about seven minutes left to play, 13th-seeded North Salem (7-6-2) broke through with a game-tying goal before taking the lead with three minutes remaining after an offensive onslaught.

Forwards Budrow and Luke Callahan excelled on the field for the Eagles, while goalkeeper Giovanni Rodriguez provided a stellar effort with 19 saves, the majority of which came in the final 30 minutes.

PHOENIX 1, SEASIDE 0: At Talent, junior midfielder Miguel Conchas scored the go-ahead goal in the 38th minute and Phoenix’s defense did the rest as the No. 4 seed captured a victory in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs at Colver Field.

It took a little bit for Phoenix (12-1-2) to get going as 13th-seeded Seaside (10-4-1) was operating in the Pirates’ territory for the first 20 minutes of the contest.

Conchas was able to finally break the ice for Phoenix when he collected sophomore Jorge Mejia’s cross 16 yards from the goal and guided the ball out of the reach of Seaside’s goalkeeper and into the the upper corner of the far post.

Sophomore striker Victor Martinez, Phoenix’s top scorer, put plenty of pressure on Seaside by taking seven shots.

Victor’s older brother, junior Dan Martinez, anchored the defense while Randy Rodriguez played well in the middle of the field for the Pirates, who had a 12-5 edge in shots on goal. Goalkeeper Tucker Speaks was credited with the shutout.

Phoenix will next host No. 8 Stayton at 1 p.m. in Saturday’s quarterfinals at Colver Field.

ST. MARY’S 6, SUTHERLIN 0: Junior midfielder Nate Sternenberg recorded a first-half hat trick for sixth-seeded St. Mary’s en route to a Class 3A first-round playoff triumph at U.S. Cellular Community Park.

The Crusaders (14-0-1) will travel to face No. 3 seed Brookings-Harbor in the quarterfinals Saturday.

Sternenberg provided all the offense St. Mary’s would need in the sixth minute before adding another goal three minutes later. His third goal came in the 22nd minute on a pass from Milan Bobek that gave Crusaders a 3-0 halftime lead.

St. Mary’s freshman Cooper Hopkins added a goal in the 53rd minute off a pass by Will Kranenburg, who scored in the 70th minute on Bobek’s second assist of the contest. Sternenberg added an assist when Charlie Reade scored with four minutes remaining.

Sweeper Andrew Rietmann played well defensively, as did wing Xavier Warfield, who checked Sutherlin’s top player Reinaldo Alcantar for much of the match. Hopkins and freshman outside wing Radek Bobek were key cogs in offensive distribution for the Crusaders.

OREGON EPISCOPAL 9, CASCADE CHRISTIAN 0: At Portland, Cascade Christian ran into a buzzsaw by opening the Class 3A playoffs against the No. 2 seed from the state’s toughest conference, with host Oregon Episcopal posting a runaway win to eliminate the Challengers.

The Aardvarks (13-2-1) out of 3A District 1, which also includes top-seeded Catlin Gabel and No. 5 seed Riverdale, scored two goals in the first five minutes to put Cascade Christian on its heels.

Cascade Christian (9-5-2), the District 5 runner-up, managed just four shots on goal, with junior Jonny McCoy’s attempts coming the closest to scoring for the Challengers.

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneAshland's Scott Gustafson gets the ball past Parkrose goal-keeper Evan Hernandez to shoot the 2nd goal of the game in the 1st half.
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Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneAshland's Milan Pyle takes a header off a corner kick during the 1st half.
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Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneAshland's Davidson Graham takes a header off a corner kick in the 1st half.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneAshland's Scott Gustafson gets the ball past Parkrose goal-keeper Evan Hernandez to shoot the 2nd goal of the game in the 1st half.
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Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneAshland's Milan Pyle takes a header off a corner kick during the 1st half.
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