PREP SOCCER: Winless Crater boys stun North in playoff
Crater didn’t win a single boys soccer match during the regular season, so playing out the string in this final week might have seemed a logical approach.
Not for coach Jason Tester and the Comets.
Crater, 0-9 and the seventh and lowest seed in the Southern Oregon Conference playoffs, shocked No. 2 seed North Medford in the first round, 3-2 in a shootout, Tuesday at the Black Tornado’s Bowerman Field.
The win sends Crater to the semifinals Thursday at third-seeded South Medford, a 2-1 winner over Roseburg.
Tied 2-2 in regulation, Crater and North Medford each made three shots in the shootout to remain tied. In sudden death, freshman midfielder Bennett Palodichuk converted on his kick, and Crater sophomore goalkeeper Diego Estrada capped a sterling performance with a save on North Medford’s final attempt, ending the game.
Tester noticed his players were down a couple weeks ago, the mounting losses taking a toll.
“Like they were getting to the mental breaking point where they were, what’s the point, why are we doing this,” said Tester. “I literally sat them all down before a game and said, listen guys, you know it’s been a long grind. But at the end of the day, what’s important is when we peak.”
The Comets scored three goals in their first eight games. Then Tester saw a spark in a 3-2 loss to Roseburg in the regular season finale a week ago.
Each SOC team made the playoffs, so the dismal record wouldn’t exclude Crater.
“What matters,” said Tester, “is we’re able to capitalize on our ability to peak going into the tournament.”
At practice Monday, Tester told his players they had as good a chance as any underdog to go out and win.
“And that’s exactly what the kids did,” he said.
Crater scored the game’s first two goals, getting a 25-yard score from Abe Hull at 18:53 off a Cooper Hopkins assisted.
Hopkins made it 2-0, heading in a throw-in 26:08 into the match.
William Gillock pulled North Medford (5-4-1) closer 15 minutes into the second half, making a strong run on a through ball before finishing.
With about 10 minutes left, the Black Tornado knotted it on an own goal by Crater. A scramble developed in front of the Comets’ goal, and when a Crater defender tried to save the ball, it spun off his foot and into net to even the match at 2-2.
“You just have to shake it off and keep playing,” said Tester.
That’s what the Comets did, particularly Estrada.
“Their keeper was really great tonight,” said Black Tornado coach Michael Belzberg. “Hats off to Crater. They finally won a game, so good for them.”
Estrada “came up with three or four big saves during regulation,” said Tester, “then won the shootout for us with that last save.”
Estrada also scored the first goal in the shootout.
SOUTH MEDFORD 2, ROSEBURG 1: South Medford senior Peyton Terry broke a scoreless tie in the 70th minute and tacked on an insurance goal in the 76th to lift the Panthers in the first round of the Southern Oregon Conference boys soccer playoffs.
Third-seeded South Medford (5-2-2) advances to Thursday’s semifinals, where it will face Crater (1-9).
Terry, a center back, recovered the ball in the midfield and dribbled through the defense before firing a shot into the net on his opening goal. On his second goal, Terry buried a low shot to the far post for a 2-0 advantage.
Roseburg (2-7), seeded sixth, scored with three minutes remaining but could not create another opportunity.
EAGLE POINT 1, GRANTS PASS 0: At Eagle Point, Noe Cortes hit a long cross to Wemar Cervantes-Kerns for the lone goal in the second half, and the Eagles’ defense made it stand up in a Southern Oregon Conference first-round playoff match.
Fourth-seeded Eagle Point (5-2-3) advanced to the semifinals Thursday at top-seeded Ashland. The game time has not been determined.
In the 50th-minute, Cortes sent his cross about 40 yards, clearing everybody but Cervantes-Kerns, who went high and headed the ball into the goal.
Eagle Point’s defense was stellar down the stretch, and midfielder Diego Garcia had his best game, controlling possession and winning loose balls.
Grants Pass (3-4-3) plays in the consolation round Saturday.
PHOENIX 1, NORTH MARION 0: At Sutherlin, junior forward Victor Martinez’s 45th-minute strike proved to be the game-winning goal as Phoenix edged North Marion to advance in the Class 4A Elite Eight tournament.
Martinez took a pass from senior midfielder Yahir Valdovinos and unleashed a powerful shot from 20 yards out to beat the North Marion keeper.
North Marion had a couple of chances to tie the game in the second half, but the Phoenix defense was up to the challenge.
Phoenix goalkeeper Tucker Speaks had three saves as the Pirates recorded their seventh shutout of the spring.
Phoenix will face Marist (10-0) — which beat Henley 2-1 on Tuesday — in Thursday’s semifinals at Sutherlin.
NORTH MEDFORD 2, CRATER 0: At Central Point, senior captain Taylor Denn scored a pair of goals to lead North Medford in the first round of the SOC playoffs.
North Medford (3-6) scored its first goal 30 minutes into the match after Kira Pyka’s shot from 30 yards out hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced out to Denn, who was ready just outside the 6-yard box and deposited the rebound.
The Black Tornado doubled its lead midway through the second half with another scramble in the box. This time, it started with Denn receiving a cross from Alia Villa on the left wing and having her initial shot saved by Crater keeper Teya Amidei. Emily Parker had the follow-up shot, but that effort was also saved. The third time was the charm for North, as Denn finally was able to convert to make it 2-0.
Amidei recorded five saves for Crater (5-3-2), which faces Eagle Point in the consolation bracket Thursday.
Freshman Harrison Poe made two saves for North, helping the Black Tornado — which plays Grants Pass in Thursday’s semifinals — record its first shutout of the season.
ASHLAND 6, ROSEBURG 1: At Ashland, Bri Gibbs and Yuki Sabo-Yamanouchi each scored a pair of goals to lead the way for Ashland in the SOC playoff victory.
The fourth-seeded Grizzlies (5-4-1) moved into the winner’s bracket of the SOC playoffs and will face top-seeded South Medford (8-0-1) in Thursday’s semifinals.
Gibbs added two assists while Ini Hammond recorded a goal and two assists. Ena Berwind also scored a goal for Ashland, which led 4-0 at halftime.
Roseburg (2-8) will play a consolation match Saturday.
GRANTS PASS 6, EAGLE POINT 0: At Grants Pass, Casey Park registered a hat trick for Grants Pass and Eagle Point was unable to score a goal for a third straight game after at least one tally in its first eight matches.
The seventh-seeded Eagles (0-9-1) moved into the consolation bracket of the SOC playoffs and will play the loser of the Crater-North Medford match on Thursday.
Brooke Anderson, Ava Hickman and Keandra Shepherd also scored for the second-seeded Cavers (8-1-1).
ST. MARY’S 8, BROOKINGS-HARBOR 1: Sophia Dobry scored four goals to lead St. Mary’s, the first-place team in District 5, to the quarterfinal win in a culminating week tournament against District 4.
Brookings-Harbor (7-4-1) was the District 4 runner-up.
The Crusaders (6-2) play first-place Sutherlin (9-1) at 3:30 p.m. Thursday at Grants Pass Downs. Sutherlin defeated St. Mary’s 4-2 a week ago.
Dobry scored two goals in each half, including the final one in the 80th minute after Brookings-Harbor hit the board in the 77th.
Elise Fernandes scored the first goal in each half for St. Mary’s, which led 4-0 at halftime.
Whitney West and Ainsley Gibbs had the other Crusader scores.
Gibbs supplied two assists, and five teammates each added one.