A win one day, a loss the next — that's become the hard-to-figure-out routine for the Ashland High boys soccer team. But head coach Brad Roupp, who guided Ashland to the Class 5A state championship match four years ago, believes the Grizzlies have what it takes to make another deep playoff run.
"I do know that what you're looking for is the boys to be passionate about what they're doing," Roupp said. "This group has grown steadily throughout the season and is playing with more intensity, and I think we're peaking at the right time."
They'll find out soon enough. The Grizzlies (7-6), winners of three of their last four games, host Springfield (6-5-3) on Saturday in one of eight 5A play-in matches, with the winner advancing to the 16-team state tournament. The opening kick is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. at Ashland Middle School.
The match will be one of three sporting events on Saturday to feature Ashland teams in do-or-die situations — the volleyball team will travel to face West Albany in a round of 16 match scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m., and the AHS girls soccer team will hit the road for a 2 p.m. play-in tilt against Churchill.
The Ashland boys have looked great in some games, average in others while slogging through its Southern Oregon Hybrid schedule. After opening the season with a 6-0 rout of Klamath Union, the Grizzlies lost three of their next four before pulling out victories over Crater and Grants Pass sandwiched around a loss to North Medford.
"We've had an on and off season," Roupp said. "We've had several times some real health sickness go through our team, and a couple games we've really been down. But (Thursday), we had the best practice of the year and we have a bunch of guys fired up and ready to play."
Roupp doesn't know a lot about Springfield, which has won three of its last four games and competes in the Midwestern League. But based on past results, he expects the Millers to be a good match for Ashland.
"They'll come down here certainly ready to play," Roupp said.
Strategy wise, the Grizzlies will be looking to crank up an offense that's averaging 2.9 goals per game. To do that, says Roupp, Ashland must do a better job distributing the ball to its strikers — Geronimo Garcia-Ayala, Josue Leal, Andrews Garcia and Stenley Graham.
"We've been working a lot (in practice) on getting our forwards more into the game," he said. "We've played a season in which our midfielders have been dominant in our scoring, and just recently we've had our forwards showing up with the intensity that they need to get the ball into the net. So I'm very hopeful that they will continue that and we'll be multifaceted with our attack."
The Ashland girls soccer team enters the postseason on a high note, having won five games in a row and seven of their last eight, with the only blemish in that span a 3-3 tie with Grants Pass. Ashland will face a Churchill (7-7) team that has lost three of its last four.
The Ashland volleyball team faces a stiff test in West Albany (24-1), the Mid-Willamette Conference champions who were No. 1 in the final OSAA 5A power rankings.