Kevin Primerano needed a hero on Sunday.
The U19 Rogue Valley Timbers 94G Red head coach called upon Madison Nahss, who saved the day not once, but twice.
Nahss, an Eagle Point senior, netted the tying and go-ahead penalty kick goals that propelled the undefeated 94G Red squad to a 3-2 victory over the previously unbeaten Albany Futbol Club Southside Cheetahs during the second day of action at the Rogue Memorial Challenge.
The 94G Reds — a mix of mostly local juniors and seniors — will play Humboldt Youth Soccer Humboldt United (3-1) of Eureka, Calif., in the finals at 9:30 a.m. today at U.S. Cellular Community Park on Field 10. The Timbers team beat Humboldt United, 1-0, on Saturday.
The 94G Reds (4-0) needed some heroics to reach the championship with a perfect record.
Trailing 2-1, they cashed in on two of their three penalty kick opportunities in a dramatic second half.
North Medford's Sydney Thomas got the ball rolling after she was fouled in the penalty area. Ashland's Faci Graham stepped forward and smoothly knocked in the ensuing PK.
The crowd went wild, but the emotional charge lasted only briefly. The goal was waved off because Graham had attempted it before the whistle was blown.
Primerano had a decision on his hands.
"She could have taken it again," he said. "Sometimes it's tough. You want to go away from the player who took it the first time just because maybe the goalkeeper saw something. You want to give a fresh look. There is a psychology behind it. If you make the right choice, I guess the psychology works."
He did just that.
"I was talking to my coaches on the sideline and they said (Nahss) could bury it. So we put her up there and she buried it. ... She is just a calm, cool kid who doesn't let the pressure get to her. You can have the best player on the field but they can't take a penalty kick sometimes."
Minutes after Nahss drilled the equalizer into the left corner, North Medford's Ashlee McFall was tackled in the box. She took the PK but the ball strayed left.
The game-winning moment arose minutes later.
Graham crisscrossed past her defender and into the penalty box before being brought down.
The attention suddenly shifted back to Nahss, a center-back who is just days away from graduating.
"Everyone was just like, 'Have Madi do it, have Madi do it,'" said Nahss, who received honorable mention in Class 5A all-state voting. "I was like, 'OK.' Kevin was like, 'Madi, go do it again.'"
Nahss unloaded a PK boot that put the 94G Reds ahead for good.
"I was really pumped," Nahss said. "But you can only be pumped for a little bit because you have a couple minutes left and you don't know what could happen in those seconds."
The Timbers' squad — which had not given up a goal in the tournament until Sunday — avoided any serious threats and walked away the winner.
Being on the victorious side of things is especially sweet for Nahss, who played for the 1-9-2 Eagles during the fall.
The 94G Reds have experienced plenty of good times: They secured the Director's Cup title in Portland and captured second at the Las Vegas Players Showcase earlier this year.
"It feels really good," she said. "I don't know how to explain it. Coming from a losing season to a winning season just feels good. It is relaxing, you know ... it just feels right."
Jessica Stipek scored in the 12th minute to give the Albany club (3-1) a 1-0 lead. About seven minutes later, McFall finished off an aggressive drive by Amanda Hisey with a gentle tap-in to even things at 1.
Southside Cheetahs' Sarah Nasholm put her squad ahead, 2-1, in the 26th minute.
"It is frustrating in that situation," Southside Cheetahs' head coach Staci Rogers said. "It was pretty evenly called until the second half. It is hard for me to judge fairly. ... Both teams overall played well. I have a lot of younger girls who really stepped up playing against older players."
Primerano praised the tough play by Thomas and Graham during the weekend.
"(Thomas) has been a horse for us all weekend getting in the box and creating some dangerous situations," said Primerano, who is also the Timbers' director of coaching. "Our wings are horses. (Graham) and Syd get up and down those flanks all day long and they are tough as nails. They created goals, regardless if they came off penalty kicks or crosses."
On the boys side, the Rogue Valley Timbers 94B (3-0-1) will take on the Corning (Calif.) Youth Soccer League Diablos (2-1-1) — last year's Rogue Valley Cup champions — in the U19 title bout at 11 a.m. today at U.S. Cellular Community Park on Field 10.
The Timbers squad downed the Diablos, 2-0, and Eel River Rapids of McKinleyville, Calif., 4-1, on Sunday.
Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email firstname.lastname@example.org