Two of the state's best teams.
Two different styles.
Huge momentum swings, a revenge motive, the season's biggest goals and a recovery from COVID-19.
Indeed, the Thursday, Oct. 14, matchup between the Gladstone and North Marion girls soccer teams seemed to have it all.
In the end, the top-ranked Gladiators broke open a scoreless tie with three second-half goals, then withstood a furious rally by the second-ranked Huskies to win 3-1 at Gladstone High School.
"It's very exciting," said Gladstone junior midfielder/forward Rhyli Grim, who scored her team's first goal on Thursday. "We lost to them last year the first time we played them, but then we came back and won. … The second time around, we won again."
"I knew that we needed to win, and when we only had one goal, I knew that we needed to get another one," said senior midfielder Sage Rhomberg, who scored the game-winning goal with 12 minutes, 57 seconds to go in the second half. "I didn't think it was going to go in, but I'm very happy it did go in."
With the win — Gladstone's fifth straight — the Gladiators avenged their 1-0 loss at North Marion on Sept. 23, improved to 6-1-0 in Tri-Valley Conference play and 10-1-0 overall. The Huskies, meanwhile, saw their five-game winning streak snapped and fell to 5-2-0 in TVC play and 7-3-1 overall.
"I think with the week we've had — we started the week off quarantined and got everyone back about an hour before our game on Tuesday … — we really went out there and showed us as a team as a whole," said North Marion senior midfielder and team captain Teagan Welch.
"It took us a while to get into our style of play, but at the end, we were on their half," said senior forward/midfielder and team captain Dominique Huapeo. "Moving forward, I think there's a lot to learn from this game."
While neither team scored in the first half, the Gladiators controlled possession early and managed four shots on goal in the first 40 minutes. But each time, the Huskies' defense — led by sophomore Melanie Kirstein, junior Ashley Delgado, junior Adrie Lader and senior goalkeeper Mallory Patzer — were up to the challenge.
North Marion, which plays on natural grass at home, took a while to adjust to Gladstone's artificial turf surface, but managed to outshoot the Glads 5-4 in the opening half and post a 4-3 edge in corner kicks while still failing to score itself.
The second half, however, was a different kind of animal, with the scoring beginning just 1 minute, 40 seconds into the period. There, Grim took a long pass up the left side sideline from junior teammate Delaney McNett and blasted a 20-yard, left-footed shot past North Marion senior keeper Mallory Patzer to the right corner of the goal for a 1-0 lead with 38:20 left in the contest.
"I had a good touch on it and I tried my left (foot) — that goalie (Patzer) is really good, she's a great keeper — and I meant to get it to the corner and that's exactly what I did," Grim said.
After a full-on blitz by Grim in the next 10 minutes — including four shots and a corner kick — the Huskies took over for the following eight minutes. In that stretch, North Marion managed four corner kicks and three shots on goal, the best of those an attack by freshman Paige McConkey off a Welch corner kick that forced Gladstone keeper Emersyn Stepp to make a leaping deflection with 22 minutes left to play.
But with 12:57 left to play, Gladiator senior Alyx DeVeny sent a corner kick into the North Marion penalty box from the left side; Rhomberg got to the ball in a crowd and knocked it into the left corner for a 2-0 lead.
Then, 1:20 later, Gladstone made it 3-0 when freshman Victoria Vera took a shot that Patzer dropped at the right post and fellow Glad freshman Ryme Jaekel redirected home to score.
To their great credit, however, North Marion rallied in the remaining minutes. With 6:49 to go, sophomore Caile Lader sent a cross into the Gladiator penalty box from the left side and McConkey ran onto it at the right post and scored to make it 3-1.
In the remaining minutes, Caile Lader missed high, Huapeo had a long free kick, Caile Lader took a corner kick from the right side and Adrie Lader's long free kick was saved by Stepp in the final minute.
With this win — the biggest of the year for Gladstone — the Gladiators hope to win the 2021 TVC title and go on to more greatness afterward.
"That's what we're hoping for," Rhomberg said. "(To do it), we're going to have to play even harder. We're going to have to practice really hard. We know we want it, we know we can do it, so we just have to keep playing hard."
For their part, the Huskies remained confident in their abilities.
"I think we've just got to flush it and know our game and move on," Patzer said.
"I think that we're one of the most connected teams and I think that we showed that," Welch added. "I was telling the team, keep your heads high as you leave the field."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.