Wolves step up late to top South Medford
TUALATIN — Time was starting to wind down.
The Tualatin High School defense was doing its thing, keeping South Medford from scoring. But, on the other end of the field, the Timberwolves weren't able to put the ball in the back of the net as well.
Something had to give.
Say hello to Meghan MacPherson.
MacPherson, a Tualatin senior midfielder, scored with 16 minutes and 19 seconds left to play, helping give the Wolves a 1-0 win over the Panthers in a Class 6A girls soccer state playoff first-round match played Saturday at Tualatin High School.
"We just knew that there was a lot on the line in this game. It's the playoffs, and if you lose, you're out," MacPherson said after the victory. "For the seniors, we want to make it as far as we can. So, at halftime, we talked, and we regrouped and talked about what we wanted to get done. We knew we needed to score to win this game, and we did, so we're really excited."
With the loss, South Medford, the Southwest Conference champion, and the No. 19 team in the final OSAA power rankings, finished its season with a final overall record of 9-6. Tualatin, the No. 5 team out of the Three Rivers League and the No. 14 team in the power rankings, improved to 9-4-2 on the season with the win.
The Timberwolves also advance in the Class 6A state playoffs. They'll face Clackamas in a second-round match on Wednesday, starting at 7 p.m. at Clackamas High School.
Tualatin, in Saturday's postseason opener, found itself in a 0-0 halftime tie with South Medford.
"That was a lot of pressure, but usually our second halves are better than our first halves," Tualatin junior defender Aden Lynch said.
However, as the match entered the final 20 minutes of regulation play, they teams were still locked up in a scoreless tie. But that's when the Wolves seemed to turn things up a notch.
Tualatin sophomore forward Cally Togiai took a shot from 28 yards away, with South Medford senior goalkeeper Skylar Farmer having to leap to tip the ball over the crossbar of the Panther goal with 18:59 remaining to play.
But, soon after, the Wolves, and MacPherson struck, with the Tualatin senior scoring on a shot from 12 yards away, with the ball sailing into the upper right corner of the South Medford goal, giving the home team a 1-0 lead.
"There was a ball floating around in the box, I think Cally played it in, I just saw it, and just went for it," MacPherson said. "It was a nice left-footed shot, and it kind of worked out. That felt amazing, then knowing that we just needed to close out the half and we'd win this game. We felt really good about it."
"It was just so exciting," Lynch said. "I was happy for Megan, I was happy for the team. We finally got it, and it helped push us through the final minutes of the game."
The goal seemed to fire up the Tualatin squad even more. The Wolves followed with shots on goal by Togiai, freshman Brook Burke and senior Skylar Maddox, with Maddox' attempt hitting the bottom of the crossbar of the South Medford goal with 9:25 left to play.
Meanwhile, at the other end, the Tualatin defense, featuring Lynch, senior Felicity Ganzar, senior Megan Sweeney and junior Darci Chamberlin, among others, was keeping the Panthers from threatening.
"It was just a lot of communication," Lynch said. "We tried to stay strong. Everything went out of the box. We just wanted to keep our back third empty."
South Medford had only one shot on goal in the final 20 minutes, an attempt by sophomore Toni Coleman from 20 yards out, coming with 7:36 remaining, but Tualatin junior goalkeeper Sarah Hall made a diving save to help preserve the 1-0 victory.
"It felt amazing to get that shutout," Lynch said. "We really needed it. It boosts our confidence. It will really help us come together as a team."
Clackamas, the Mt. Hood Conference champion and the No. 3 team in the OSAA power rankings, brings an overall record of 12-2-1 into Wednesday's second-round match.
The teams have met the past two years in the state playoffs, with Tualatin winning 2-0 in a first-round match in 2016, and with the Wolves getting a 2-1 win in a first-round match decided by penalty kicks a year ago. Both of those games were played at Clackamas High School.
"We know they're going to have a fire under their butts," MacPherson said. "They're going to want to beat us. We know they're ranked higher than us, but they were before. Last year, they were ranked higher than us, and we beat them, so we're just going to have to put it all on the line and play as hard as we can."
"We're going to have to treat it like the Tigard-Tualatin rivalry," Lynch said. "It's a huge deal for us, playing them for a third straight year. We're just going to have to come out knowing it's going to be a physical game, and we're going to have to be the bigger team."
The winner of Wednesday's game at Clackamas will face either Sherwood or Westview in a state playoff quarterfinal match on Saturday.