South rallies, but falls short against Grants Pass in SOC final
After allowing the game-tying goal with 90 seconds to go in regulation, the Grants Pass girls soccer team could have wilted.
Instead, the Cavers held firm and responded.
Getting a pair of saves from goalkeeper Sam Borngasser in the penalty shootout, Grants Pass got its first win over South Medford in three tries this spring, edging the Panthers 3-2 on PKs for a 2-1 victory to capture the Southern Oregon Conference tournament Saturday at Spiegelberg Stadium.
“This was a demonstration of mental strength for both teams,” Grants Pass head coach Aaron Cubic said. “This was difficult for both of us, but I think for us getting the lead and then getting tied up in the last two minutes, the ladies, when we had that talk (before overtime), they were looking in their eyes and I didn’t even have to mention that they had to stay mentally strong.
“Our keeper was ready for this, obviously, saving two. She was the one who helped us get to this championship. That was an amazing performance by the whole team and it was great that we were able to highlight the skills of our keeper.”
The loss was the Panthers’ first of the spring season, with South recording a win and a tie in its other two meetings with Grants Pass (10-1-1).
The Cavers ended the season on an 11-game unbeaten run, with all of their wins coming after a season-opening loss to the Panthers.
“Oh my god,” Borngasser said with a laugh, “I feel like all of this work we’ve done to even have a season in the first place, I feel like it’s all culminated into being totally worth it for this.”
South (9-1-1) needed a late-game rally to even have a shot at the comeback win.
It came in the 78th minute courtesy of Addison Belim, one of the Panthers’ least-experienced players. Belim jumped on the rebound of a Brooke Fairbanks shot that was saved by Borngasser and slotted it through the legs of a Grants Pass defender to tie it.
After a scoreless 20 minutes of overtime, the two teams headed to penalty kicks, the second straight game in which South’s tournament fate was decided from the spot following its win over Ashland on Thursday night.
South’s Emily Ingledew and Grants Pass’ Casey Park made their teams’ first attempts.
But the Cavers got the advantage when Borngasser dove to her left to save Drew Hampson’s shot. After Kaelynn Teagle’s goal put Grants Pass up 2-1 in the shootout, Borngasser dove to her right to deny Caris Follett for back-to-back saves.
“Obviously there’s a certain amount of strategy and guessing and stuff, but at the end of the day it’s a lot of luck, it’s a lot of hoping for the best,” Borngasser said. “I’m happy we got the win, and the shooters did a great job with some really well-placed shots.”
Jaimie Burton scored her PK to momentarily put Grants Pass up by two goals, but South’s Fairbanks cut it back to one with a successful shot.
Belim’s shot in the fourth round hit off the crossbar, sealing the win.
“If there’s anybody to blame for us losing the PKs, I’m the guy, I’m the guy,” South Medford head coach Dave Potter said. “PKs were not part of the playoff system and I never once had the players practice PKs.”
“Here’s the thing that I was really impressed with: We just came off playing another 100-minute match two nights ago (against Ashland), and I could see it really affecting our legs,” Potter added. “I had girls out there who could probably run at 50 or 60 percent of their regular speed, and they gave 100 percent and somehow squeezed out another 100 minutes. I could not be more proud of that.”
South finished the game out-shooting Grants Pass 13-10. The Panthers hit the crossbar twice.
The first of those shots off the crossbar came from Bella Bottero in the 30th minute when her long-range free kick just missed going in at the top-right corner of the goal. Ingledew then hit the crossbar with a header off a Bottero cross from the left wing nine minutes into the second half.
“The match could have been over for what we were doing. The shots we were taking were good shots, and you’re talking 2 or 3 inches difference and they’re going in,” Potter said. “Emily Ingledew put two off the frame against Ashland and then turned around and did the same thing here.”
The Cavers jumped in front three minutes after the Panthers’ second shot hit off the crossbar.
A free kick from the left wing just short of midfield sent a cross into the box, and Park jumped on the loose ball and slotted it past the onrushing keeper.
Grants Pass’ goal was just the fourth allowed by South this spring and the first since the two teams played out a 1-1 tie on March 29.
“The one they put in in the second half, I just couldn’t believe that we did not go to the ball and clear it out because it was a soft looper,” Potter said. “That’s pretty much automatic. How it ever got to the ground, that’s where we made our mistake. I told the girls that we know Grants Pass is skilled enough that you can’t make a mistake and that’s how they’re going to score, and they did. That’s how they got their goal against us up there, too.”
Borngasser and South Medford goalkeeper Jaeda Boutwell, both seniors, both led their respective team’s strong defensive performances. Boutwell finished with six saves, including a nice diving save in the first half to keep the game scoreless. Borngasser stopped four South shots.
“She’s always been mentally strong and she’s been such a rock back there on the back line,” Cubic said of Borngasser. “Of course, any time you’re talking about soccer, you’re only as strong as your foundation. That is the key cornerstone of our foundation and she proved it today.”
Reach Danny Penza at 541-776-4469 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @penzatopaper.