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Grizzlies top Parkrose to end playoff drought

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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 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 Ashland High, 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.”

Andy Atkinson / Ashland Tidings Ashland's Milan Pyle takes a header off a corner kick during the 1st half.
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Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneAshland's Kona Makai pushes the ball across midfield past Parkrose's Daniel Tello in the 1st half.
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Andy Atkinson / Ashland Tidings Ashland'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 / Ashland Tidings Ashland's Kona Makai pushes the ball across midfield past Parkrose's Daniel Tello in the 1st half.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneAshland's Milan Pyle takes a header off a corner kick during the 1st half.
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