Ashland High boys soccer teams rarely take beatings, especially at home, and especially in games with enhanced significance. But a beating is exactly what North Medford administered on Tuesday at Ashland Middle School.
Christian Siordia scored the first goal in the 19th minute and added a second-half assist and North raced out to a 4-0 lead en route to a 4-1 nonconference win over the Grizzlies, who blew an opportunity to climb a few notches in the OSAA Class 5A power rankings.
North Medford, one of three 6A teams still undefeated (8-0-1), outshot, outpassed and soundly outplayed the Grizzlies (3-4) in a lopsided first half that bore no resemblance to the first meeting between the two teams, a back-and-forth battle that North eventually pulled out 3-2 Sept. 18.
"(Today) we learned about preparation — we weren't prepared to play," Ashland head coach Brad Roupp said. "We were unfocused and we didn't start connecting our passes, and when we played like that we gave them confidence, or they took confidence from that, and took it to us."
Three weeks removed from a barnburner at North Medford High the Tornado left nothing to chance this time, outshooting the Grizzlies 13-5 in the first 40 minutes, including 10-2 in on-goal attempts. The result was a 2-0 halftime lead for the visitors, with Siordia scoring the first off an assist by Jose Mendoza, and Garrett Byrd adding the second off an assist by Leonardo Alonzo.
The first goal culminated a beautiful combination that produced an easy one-on-one opportunity for Siordia five yards in front of the goal. He didn't waste the point-blank look, left-footing the ball past Ashland keeper Ross Kandaris, whose 10 saves kept the final score somewhat respectable.
In the 36th minute the Tornado produced another one-versus-one scoring opportunity, and this time it was Byrd cashing in, reeling in Alonzo's long pass before beating Kandaris to give North a 2-0 halftime lead.
"We played very quickly and I thought it was very effective," North Medford coach Michael Belzberg said. "The field here is the most beautiful field probably in southern Oregon, so I think these boys were really excited to play on a really good pitch."
The second half was played fairly evenly — North outshot Ashland 11-10, and both teams had four on-goal opportunities — but North made the most of its opportunities while Ashland struggled to finish.
Austin Schoenmann finished a great 30-yard run which included a knee-buckling fake-out by ripping home a 15-yard blast in the 52nd and extending the Tornado lead to 3-0. Then, five minutes later, Siordia delivered a perfect cross to Ryan Hogan, who headed the ball off the far post but across the line for a 4-0 margin.
"When we are focused we play very nice one and two-touch soccer — today we played very little of that," Roupp said. "We weren't showing for the ball. Most of the work that needs to be done is by the guys without the ball and we weren't doing that. The guys without the ball that were support players weren't in support today."
Ashland finally broke through in the 86th. Senior halfback Diego Harrison, dribbling into the box left of center, lofted a perfectly-placed shot that sailed just over the outstretched arms of North keeper Eric Benitez and into the net.
The Grizzlies had chances to cut into the lead earlier, but Zahara Moyers-Cullumbine's 30-yard rocket on a direct kick in the 54th minute was saved by Jose Siordia, and a pair of indirects by Moyers-Cullumbine and Harrison 15 minutes later were off frame.
Now, the Grizzlies, who have lost four of six games since their 6-0 season-opening win over Klamath Union, have seven games remaining to right the ship before the playoffs begin. Ashland can begin the climb back Saturday against Grants Pass.
Roupp is confident that his team will do so.
"We have potential," he said, "whether or not we'll realize it soon enough, that's the question. I believe we will. I believe in this team and I love these guys, so I think that we will come together soon."
Senior outside Shelby Minor had 13 kills and two aces to lead Ashland to a 25-22, 13-25, 12-25, 25-23, 15-13 win over North Medford in nonleague play at Medford on Tuesday.
Madeline Wallace had five kills, including the team's 14th point in the fifth and deciding set, and two blocks for the Grizzlies (7-5). Amanda Wurzell turned in 13 digs and Phoebe Challman added nine digs, three kills and two aces.
Freshman outside hitter Emily Carter recorded 18 kills and two aces and Emily Carlson added 12 kills and two blocks for North (8-7) which beat Ashland in five games on Sept. 13.
Elle Bixler had 11 kills and two blocks, Katy Carter nine kills, 11 digs and two aces and Ashley Smith 18 digs for the Black Tornado, which was hurt by 18 service errors.