Starting on varsity was a little bit nerve-wracking for Toni Coleman at the beginning of this season. The fleet-footed freshman forward’s confidence has grown, though, and it shined through Tuesday night in leading her team to victory over its perennial rival.
Coleman scored a pair of goals for the South Medford girls soccer team, which bested North Medford 3-1 to solidify its second-place standing in the Southwestern Conference.
The Panthers (5-2-2, 4-1-2 SWC) played to a scoreless tie against the Black Tornado (1-5-1, 1-4-1) on Sept. 9 in the teams’ first meeting this season, Coleman’s first experience facing the many familiar girls who previously were her teammates on either clubs or in middle school.
“We definitely played better this time,” Coleman said. “We just came out more confident and more ready going into this game and knowing that we just had to win this one. We have to pretend like we don’t know them and play them like any other team.”
“Just knowing that I’m going to be doing this for the next three years, it’s pretty exciting,” she added.
Another person anticipating Coleman’s bright future is South coach Chris Hollewijn, who characterized his young scorer’s composure on the field as “a little bit beyond her years.”
“Toni’s got this spark that she brings,” Hollewijn said. “You kind of can’t take your eyes off of her because if she gets the ball in the part of the field where she likes to get it, up in the attack zone, she can be very dangerous. She just finds ways to pop up in the right spots.”
Coleman notched the opening goal in the fourth minute, when she scored with an assist by junior forward Ula Chamberlin to put South on top 1-0.
North, however, controlled much of the momentum and tempo for the remainder of the first half, before giving up an assisted goal to senior forward Chloe Alvarez to fall behind 2-0 at halftime.
“Our girls did a great job of holding the ball and making South chase them around,” North coach Jeff Thomas said. “I was really happy with our players. They played well.”
“We’re not getting the lucky bounces,” he added. “If those two goals don’t go in, I think it’s a different game. If we played that game 10 times, I think we’re gonna get ‘em five or six times.”
Coleman added her second goal in the 50th minute with an assist from senior midfield Courtney Herick to put the contest out of reach.
North avoided the shutout when sophomore Jaida Ross scored unassisted in the 68th minute.
“It took us a few minutes to figure out how (North was) attacking us (in the first half), and once we got that dialed in, we were able to take away some of their threat,” Hollewijn said. “But, that being said, in the second half they pushed numbers up and they made some changes, so we had to adjust to that. Obviously, they got a goal as a result and credit to them for that, because that definitely paid off and it was dangerous. But I think after that we made a few moves and felt like we had a good grip.”
South was denied a late goal on a penalty kick when North keeper Brinley O’Neill made a spectacular diving save, highlighting a defensive effort that was led by senior Madison Morgan along with sophomore Jazzlynn Ross and freshmen Taylor Denn and Emily Parker.
“We just had a couple mistakes today,” Jaida Ross said. “I think we had really good possession and kind of communication. We still need to work on our offense but I think defensively we just need to get more depth.”
After getting shut out in its first four games, the Black Tornado has scored five goals in its last three.
“We’re not disappointed at all,” Thomas said. “Our girls held a lot of composure. They didn’t just start kicking the ball away. We’re positive about the direction of this team.”
Reach sports reporter Mike Oxendine at 541-776-4499 or firstname.lastname@example.org