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GIRLS SOCCER: South clinches share of SWC title

South Medford’s girls soccer team has put a little extra burden on itself this season with slow starts, but that certainly was not the case Saturday.

Facing their crosstown friends at North Medford, the Panthers were on the right foot early and kept up that focused intensity to score a 4-1 victory at South Medford High.

Combined with Sheldon’s 1-0 win over South Eugene on Friday, South Medford’s win allowed it to tie the Axe for the Southwest Conference championship at 8-1-1 in league play.

“It’s a conference championship nonetheless in a very challenging conference,” said South Medford coach Dave Potter. “I’m very proud of the girls because they really put the time in and they really worked for it.”

The Panthers (8-3-2) opened the scoring in the 17th minute when Brooke Fairbanks put a ball into the net off a corner kick from Isabelle Cruz.

The lead moved to 2-0 in the 22nd minute when Bella Bottero scored on a penetration run following a perfectly placed through ball from Cruz.

Cruz continued her steady involvement in the second half, scoring in the 46th minute following a direct free kick by Bottero to make it 3-0.

“Isabelle is involved in every match,” said Potter. “She is the center of attention and center nucleus in the middle for us that makes things happen.”

North Medford (5-8, 2-7 SWC) finally was able to break through in the 51st minute when Jordan Alftine scored off a setup by Isabella Driskell, but that effort was quickly answered by South in the 54th minute on a Bottero goal that was assisted by Fairbanks for the final tally.

“We’re playing some real good soccer right now and I felt confident the girls would transfer it from training onto the field and they did today,” said Potter.

North Medford coach Morgan Barry agreed.

“They had the intensity the whole game and we struggled with that today,” said Barry, whose team wraps up regular-season play Tuesday at Sheldon.

ASHLAND 1, SPRINGFIELD 0: At Ashland, senior MaKenna Page scored the lone goal with 10 minutes remaining to lift sixth-ranked Ashland and complete an unbeaten regular season for the Grizzlies.

This is the first unbeaten regular season for Ashland (8-0-5, 6-0-2 MWL) in head coach Eric Wolff’s 21-year tenure with the Grizzlies, who shared the league title with North Eugene.

The goal-scoring sequence in the Midwestern League match began when senior Sachi Moran’s shot hit off the crossbar. After an attempted clearance by Springfield (6-3-1, 2-3-1), Page was able to get a shot away and sneak it just under the crossbar.

Ashland goalkeeper Esme Barnes finished with six saves to record the Grizzlies’ fifth shutout.

Junior defender Joelle Annen had a strong game at the back, while the trio of Moran, junior Ini Hammond and senior Emmeline Clark created the bulk of the Grizzlies’ opportunities.

THURSTON 3, CRATER 0: At Springfield, Thurston’s team speed forced Crater into scramble mode on a wet surface and the Comets were unable to keep up in a season-ending Midwestern League loss.

Kayleigh Gugliotta and Ella Heppner each had chances on goal, but the opportunities were few and far between for Crater (1-5-5, 1-3-4 MWL).

Thurston (5-5-3, 4-2-1) led 1-0 at halftime and recorded its third shutout in the past four matches.

WILLAMETTE 4, EAGLE POINT 1: At Eugene, Eagle Point snapped its five-match scoreless drought but dropped to 2-6-1 overall and 1-4-1 in Midwestern League play with the road setback to Willamette (6-7, 4-3).

ST. MARY’S 7, LAKEVIEW 1: At Lakeview, St. Mary’s senior Ryker Rothfus was involved in six goals to help the seventh-ranked Crusaders clinch their 14th straight league championship with a dominant effort over Far West League runner-up Lakeview.

Rothfus netted four goals and added two assists for St. Mary’s (6-6, 4-0 FWL), which led 3-0 at intermission.

Rothfus scored in the fifth minute, earned an assist on Samantha Gallardo’s goal in the 15th minute and converted a penalty kick in the 31st minute to round out a solid opening half.

Gallardo assisted a goal by Rothfus in the 46th minute, then Rothfus set up Kate Stillwell for a goal on a nice combination play in the 54th minute. Rothfus capped her scoring in the 71st minute, with an assist to Sara Hatfield.

Lakeview (6-3, 2-2), which was stymied thanks to a hustling Sadie Glaser in the midfield, scored its lone goal on a defensive miscue in the 74th minute. St. Mary’s answered right back on a corner kick by Brennan Gangnes that was headed in by Abby Kirkpatrick.

COQUILLE 5, CASCADE CHRISTIAN 4: At Coquille, Cascade Christian junior Autumn Murray scored her first two goals of the season but the Challengers fell short after a potential game-tying effort with three minutes remaining didn’t come to fruition in a muddy contest played with steady rain.

Bella Williams scored in the 22nd minute for Cascade Christian (0-11), but Coquille’s Taylor Kelner answered immediately.

Murray scored in the 29th to help send the game into halftime tied at 2-all, then gave her team a lead after converting a cross from Williams in the 47th minute.

After consecutive Coquille goals, Ellie Vanlandingham scored off a cross from Katharina Gray to tie it in the 51st minute but, again, the Red Devils (2-5) had an answer.

South Medford's Brooke Fairbanks, shown in action earlier this year, had one goal and one assist in Saturday’s 4-1 win over North Medford. Photo by Larry Stauth Jr.