Thom's first-half hat trick topples Southridge
The jet-black ten-gallon cowboy hat rested comfortably on top of Ally Thom's head — a fitting honor for the forward's best game of her career.
Standing in the center of the Sunset girls soccer team's postgame huddle on the far sideline at Southridge High School, Thom proudly donned the big-ticket prize, courtesy of assistant coach Josh Durano, and posed for pictures as her Apollo teammates sang her praises.
In a rivalry match that was once volatile and absorbing over the past four years, Thom sucked the life right out the Sunset-Southridge game early on, scoring three goals in the first 17 minutes to build a 3-0 advantage. And while the Skyhawks stopped the bleeding for the duration of the contest, it was Thom's early tornado hat trick that ended any potential drama in Sunset's 3-0 win on Sept. 28.
"We didn't want to think about what (Southridge's) record was, we just wanted to come out how we always do and tried to play our best," Thom said. "The team was connecting well, getting through balls through. In the first half, we capitalized on a lot of opportunities and got off a lot of shots. Eventually, some of them went it."
Coming off its first two-game losing streak since 2014, Sunset has responded sounded and swiftly, beating Beaverton and Southridge by a combined 6-1 count.
The Skyhawks, while struggling at 0-7 overall coming into the square-off, weren't taken lightly, especially with a strong goalie like sophomore Sidney O'Billovich in between the posts.
O'Billovich was victimized by Sunset's early onslaught of energy and effort level, but the Chloe Wood came strengthened her hold in the second half, stopping four shots that prevented the game from escalating into an all-out rout. Still, Sunset took the fight right to Southridge early on and put the game out of reach before the first half could truly unfold — as opposed to the past handful of seasons, when each Apollo-Skyhawk face-off seemed to come down to the final minute of regulation.
"It didn't matter what the history was, we just had to play our game and I think we did a pretty good job of doing that," Skiba said. "It was good to work on what we needed to work on, accomplish our team goals, and play the way we wanted to play."
Thom scored her first goal on the breakaway just seven minutes into the first half to go up 1-0.
Sunset is known for its incredibly high fitness level and consistent ability to play hard for 90 minutes, no matter the foe. A lot of that comes from the Apollos' dedication to conditioning both during the summer and throughout the season, with the expectation of peaking toward the playoffs. And if somebody doesn't compete, they'll find themselves on the pine next to Durano and company.
The coupling of cardio and competitive drive was clear on Thom's second and third goals of the game.
Three minutes after Thom's first score, Sunset hustled down a mishandled Skyhawk clear attempt, shuttled the ball to Thom, who crossed the ball from her left foot to her right, quickly planted her left foot to gain leverage and unleashed an untouchable laser into the right corner of the goal to go up 2-0.
"It doesn't matter what year it is, what team we have, we always have high expectations for ourselves," Skiba said. "That really shows in games — all the hard work that we put into practice. We just want to keep that up for the rest of the season."
Thom capped her hat trick with 23 minutes and 48 seconds to go in the first half, after Sunset sophomore forward Emma Hamilton outran the Skyhawk backline to a loose ball in the final third of the field. Hamilton touched the rock over to a centered Thom, who squared up and shotgunned the ball home to make it 3-0.
"I kind of felt like I was in the zone," Thom said with a smile. "I got a lot of great opportunities from my teammates."
"Those were definitely 'team' goals," Skiba said. "I want to give credit to (Thom) for finishing those, but we did well at connecting passes, keeping possession for a while and finishing it at the end."