Things weren’t looking so good for the South Medford girls soccer team after it lost five of its first six games to start the season — a rough patch that included four one-goal losses.
But the Panthers have since roared back to life, and they continued their upward trend Saturday with a 2-1 Southwest Conference victory over crosstown rival North Medford at Spiegelberg Stadium.
Ula Chamberlin dribbled her way through the Black Tornado defense for an unassisted, close-range goal in the 33rd minute, and Whitney Winans capped a sensational combination in the 57th as South Medford picked up its third win in a row to improve to 4-5 overall and 3-2 in the Southwest Conference.
“I feel super proud of my team,” South Medford coach Kendra McMillen said, noting that her team maintained its focus despite a one-hour lightning delay at halftime. “They’ve come together a lot over the season and they’ve been faced with adversity and they just keep pushing through. They’re starting to play as a team and as a unit and as a coach, it’s just fun to watch.”
South’s teamwork was never more evident than on the three-player combo which led to Winans’ goal. Talia Hutchins began the play from the midfield before working the ball to Heather Ramirez, who crossed to Winans for the finish from about 10 yards out.
The insurance strike proved valuable after North Medford’s Jaida Ross scored in the 68th minute to draw the Black Tornado (1-4-3, 1-3-1 SWC) within one.
The Tornado had a few good opportunities to tie the game, but Panthers keeper Skylar Farmer came through with some clutch saves. She also kept the Panthers on top by denying a would-be North goal early in the second half.
North’s keeper, Brinley O’Neill, also made some tough saves to keep the game close, McMillen said.
“So it was a great, fun match,” she said. “A lot of back and forth.”
Chamberlin took matters into her own hands to score the first goal, working the ball down the end line then firing a rocket that sliced just inside the near post.
GRANTS PASS 3, ROSEBURG 0: At Grants Pass, once Grants Pass grabbed the lead, its defense did the rest as the Cavers shutdown Roseburg.
The Cavers improved to 6-2-1 overall and 3-2 in Southwest Conference play, while the Indians fell to 3-5-1 and 0-5.
NORTH EUGENE 3, CRATER 0: At Eugene, Crater played well defensively but was unable to hang with the state’s top-ranked Class 5A squad in the second half.
Goalkeeper Lauren Noyes helped limit the damage with several saves and McKenna Gugliotta was a standout at centerback for the Comets (3-3-3, 0-3 Midwestern League), who trailed North Eugene (7-0-1, 2-0 MWL) 1-0 at halftime.
THURSTON 3, ASHLAND 2: At Ashland, Lily Annen scored both Ashland goals — the second was a 64th-minute score that brought the Grizzlies within one but were unable to complete the Midwestern League comeback.
Annen’s penalty kick tied the match in the 13th minute and her late goal came on an assist from Luna Wilhelm.
Goalkeeper Nina Munson made several stops on Thurston breakaways for the Grizzlies (1-6-1, 0-2-1).
The Colts jumped to 5-3-1 overall and 2-1 in MWL play.
CASCADE CHRISTIAN 11, ILLINOIS VALLEY 0: Saiah Merrihew tallied five goals and Bryton Plankenhorn added a hat trick as Cascade Christian streaked away with the District 5 victory at U.S. Cellular Community Park.
Plankenhorn scored the first goal of the match in the fifth minute and Merrihew’s first of three first-half goals came in the 26th minute.
Both Merrihew and Plankenhorn scored in the 41st minute to put the Challengers up 6-0.
Bryonie Jordaan found the back of the net twice for the Challengers (3-6-1, 1-3 Dist. 5) while goalkeeper Audrey Quast played the field late in the match to record a goal.
ST. MARY’S 6, ROGUE RIVER 1: At Rogue River, St. Mary’s scored four second-half goals in the District 5 match.
Maddie Wheelock had two goals and three assists for the Crusaders (6-1, 3-0 Dist. 5). Other goals came from Riley Kreul, Laura Pontoppidan, Ryker Rothfus and Audrey Mills.
Other assists for St. Mary’s were by Olivia Lippert, Abby Kirkpatrick and Brennan Gangness.
It was the Crusaders’ sixth straight victory.
NORTH MEDFORD 1, SOUTH MEDFORD 1: North Medford tallied the first goal, South Medford’s Gustavo Lara scored the equalizer in the 30th minute and the crosstown rivals played to a draw the rest of the way at Spiegelberg Stadium.
Following a throw-in, South’s Angus Stringer headed the ball ahead to Lara, who finished to help the Panthers improve to 4-1-3, 2-1-2 in the Southwest Conference.
North Medford is 3-3-1, 3-1-1 in the SWC.
ROSEBURG 8, GRANTS PASS 6: At Roseburg, Grants Pass wasn’t able to keep up with Roseburg in the high-scoring Southwest Conference match.
The Cavemen dropped to 1-6-1 overall and 1-4 in the SWC, and the Indians moved up to 3-5-1 and 2-3.
NORTH EUGENE 2, CRATER 1: At Eugene, North Eugene picked up its first Midwestern League win to improve to 3-4-1, 1-0-1 in league play.
The Comets (2-7, 0-3) suffered their third straight setback.
EAGLE POINT 4, SPRINGFIELD 4: At Springfield, Cody Silani’s hat trick gave Eagle Point a two-goal advantage midway through the match but Springfield scrambled to score twice over the final 12 minutes to salvage a Midwestern League tie with the Eagles.
Martin Hernandez’s goal in the fourth minute put the Eagles (5-1-2, 2-0-2 MWL) on the scoreboard and Silani’s on-target shot gave the Eagles a 2-0 lead.
The Millers (4-1-3, 1-1-1 MWL) answered two minutes later and again in the 17th minite to knot the score 2-all, but Silani tallied in the 26th and 49th minutes to give the Eagles a 4-2 lead.
Springfield cut Eagle Point’s lead to one in the 68th minute and tied four minutes later on a free kick.
ASHLAND 4, THURSTON 4: At Ashland, Ashland had a two-goal lead until Thurston scored twice in the final 10 minutes, including the tying goal with a minute left in the Midwestern League match.
Sam Austin scored in the 18th minute on a pass from Davidson Graham to put the Grizzlies (5-2-1, 3-0 MWL) up first. Graham tallied four minutes later on a Noah Aguilar pass for a 2-0 halftime lead.
After Thurston tied it, Aguilar scored in the 55th, and Scott Gustafson punched in a penalty kick in the 62nd.
Michael Holden played strong defense for Ashland.
CASCADE CHRISTIAN 6, PAISLEY 1: Jonny McCoy had two goals and an assist and was one of five Challengers who found the back of the net in the second half as Cascade Christian pulled away after the break for an easy District 5 win at U.S. Cellular.
McCoy connected after a nice drive in front of the goal line to give the Challengers (5-1-1, 5-1-1 Dist. 5) their first lead in the 39th minute, and Ryan Crowl made it 2-0 four minutes into the second half. Paisley (4-3, 4-3) got one back when Andre Ramos Moreno scored in the 48th, but Cascade Christian tallied four goals between the 67th and 79th minutes to break open the game.
Justin Fairbanks, Jorge Guttierez and Levi Ellerbeck also scored in the second half for the Challengers, while McCoy bended in a corner kick in the 69th for his second goal.
ROGUE RIVER 8, LAKEVIEW 2: At Lakeview, Garren Decker had four goals and an assist and Sebastian Poston two goals as Rogue River picked up its third win in a row in 3A District 5 play.
Braydon Daniels and John Gordon also scored for Rogue River (6-2, 5-2 Dist. 5).
Lakeview fell to 1-6-1, 1-5-1 in league play.
ST. MARY’S 6, CANYONVILLE ACADEMY 0: At Myrtle Creek, Will Kranenburg tallied a pair of goals and began a scoring flurry just before halftime in the 3A District 5 triumph at South Umpqua High School.
Kranenburg scored in the 30th minute before Andrew Michaels, James Forrester and Luka Cvijanovic quickly put St. Mary’s up 4-0 with goals in the 33rd, 34th and 39th minutes, respectively.
Michaels and Nathan Sternenberg had two assists apiece, and Milan Bobek also earned a goal for the Crusaders (7-0, 6-0 Dist. 5).