Ashland High first-year boys soccer coach Brad Roupp chose to see the glass half full rather than half empty Tuesday night after his Grizzlies suffered their first defeat of the season.
MEDFORD — Ashland High first-year boys soccer coach Brad Roupp chose to see the glass half full rather than half empty Tuesday night after his Grizzlies suffered their first defeat of the season.
Senior forward Humberto Cortez scored the lone goal in the 63rd minute as South Medford blanked Ashland 1-0 in a non-conference match at Spiegelberg Stadium.
"South Medford's forwards are quicker and more aggressive than anything we've played to date," Roupp said. "It was fun to play them and it gave us a great experience to build toward."
With a veteran team returning from last season's Class5A quarterfinal appearance, Roupp put together a challenging non-conference schedule that begins with four straight Southwest Conference foes. The Grizzlies (2-1) defeated Grants Pass and Roseburg in their opening two contests and face North Medford Thursday.
"It's excellent to be able to play the old SOC (Southern Oregon Conference) teams, because they bring it every time," Roupp said.
South Medford (2-1-1) controlled the play for most of the night and registered a 14-9 advantage in shots on goal.
"South Medford is a very quick and strong team," Roupp said. "They brought it to us in the first half and set us on our heels. We took 37 minutes to where we said, 'Whoa, we can play with these guys.' At halftime we talked about it and the boys came out in the second half ready to play."
Ashland appeared to be coming on midway through the second half, when Panthers midfielder Brian Avila took a pass from Cortez in the box, drew two defenders and returned the pass to Cortez for the goal. It was Cortez's fourth goal of the season, but the first in three games for South Medford.
"Those two kind of have a sixth sense about where they're going to be," South Medford coach Dave Kaufman said. "Brian squirted through a couple of players and got in behind. At that point, you're so close to the goal that the goalkeeper is hung out to dry."
Ashland keeper Weston Overland, who suffered minor injuries in an auto accident just days before the season began but has played in all three games, was busier than usual, including a save on a Micah Diaz shot in the 49th minute that kept the contest scoreless.
South Medford goalie Skyler Holt didn't face as many shots as Overland, but made a fine play to deny Ian Murray on a two-man rush in the 27th minute.
Despite being outplayed for much of the first half, it appeared Ashland had taken the lead just before intermission when Simon Linsday put the ball past Holt in the 39th minute. But Linsday was whistled for a foul on the play, a call Roupp did not take issue with.
"The boys are going to realize that we have to play from the beginning," Roupp said. "In the first half, we gave them too much."
Following Cortez's goal, Ashland pressured but was unable to get a shot on goal against Holt in the final 10 minutes.
"They're a very good team," Roupp said of the Panthers. "We had a couple of chances. They had some chances and they hit one."
Kaufman said the game was his team's best effort of the young season and had plenty of praise for the Grizzlies.
"They've got some very good players," Kaufman said of the Grizzlies. "I predict, if things go well, they'll make a deep run. This could be a special year for them."