Ashland girls pull out 'kind of surreal' win

Every team needs a hero sometimes. On Tuesday night, the hero for the Ashland High girls soccer team was senior Molly MacGraw.

MacGraw tied Ashland's second-round playoff match with Churchill (5-4) at one with only 11 ticks left in regulation, and the Grizzlies went on to win the game in a shootout, 2-1.

With all 11 Grizzlies (6-1) attacking in the final moments of regulation, MacGraw broke free from the crowd with the ball down the right side of the penalty box and buried the ball in the goal's top-left corner.

After the game, MacGraw was in awe of the magnitude of the most important goal of her life.

"It was just kind of surreal," MacGraw said. "I couldn't believe it at first. It felt so good. It was just amazing. It's the biggest goal I've ever scored."

After 70 minutes of scoreless soccer, the Grizzlies suddenly found themselves in a hole when Lancers' senior captain Mackenzie Fegles snuck one of her five shots under the crossbar from about 30-yards out to give Churchill a 1-0 lead.

Sixth-year Ashland coach Eric Wolff felt his team had nothing to lose in the waning moments of regulation.

"(The Lancers) scored and it was time for us to push again," Wolff said. "They brought it. They had so much energy at the end. I tried to pull everybody up in the last few minutes because it doesn't matter whether you lose 1-0 or 10-0 at that point."

Things looked bleak for the Grizzlies, but Wolff knew his team would never say die.

"What it comes down to is that will in the end," said Wolff. "(Churchill) had that great goal that put us on our ropes. But when you talk about Molly MacGraw and you ask her to get it done, she'll get it done. She has the indomitable will to win. She needed it. Eleven seconds to go. That ball has to be in the net. She gets it done, so kudos to her."

Ashland rode the momentum wave of the late goal into overtime. The Grizzlies were just a good bounce away from sealing it in the second overtime period. The Lancer defense was in a scramble for a solid 30 seconds, but Churchill managed to get in front of all of the Grizzlies threats.

As time expired in overtime, a crossing pass from Ashland senior Amber Lowey sailed just high of a pair of Grizzlies waiting to direct it into an open goal.

"I had a good feeling after that goal," Wolff said. "It seemed like (Churchill was) done. They were just clinging on to dear life and they were just ready to get on the bus and get out of here. You could tell they were just hoping we wouldn't score (in regulation)."

In penalty shots, the Grizzlies couldn't miss. Wolff put the game on the feet of his five seniors: Amanda Greenstein, Amber Lowey, Emily Warnke-Crary and MacKenzie Hedges each buried their shots.

Fegles, Churchill's lone goal scorer in regulation, missed her penalty kick, leaving MacGraw the opportunity to put the nail in the coffin. MacGraw stuck her shot in the top-right corner and the North Mountain Park crowd rejoiced and rushed the field.

"I just really tried to focus on clearing my mind and just shooting it and just placing it in the right corner," MacGraw said. "I really tried to stay calm, which is kind of hard sometimes."

The Lancers kept Ashland senior goalkeeper Catie Pratt busy all night, putting 12 of their 18 shots on goal. Ashland took 15 shots on the night, six of which were on target. The Grizzlies were badly outshot in the first half, 12-4. Churchill managed seven corner kicks to Ashland's one.

The win advances Ashland to the quarterfinals of the state tournament, deeper than the team has ever gone before. They will travel Saturday to face Bend (7-1). —

"It feels awesome," MacGraw said. "We've never done this before. I'm a senior so this is the first time in four years so it feels great."

Wolff realizes that the matchups for his team will only become more difficult from here.

"We'll be going to Bend and what I expect is one of the toughest teams in the state," Wolff said. "We're going to have to employ a different strategy than we've played I expect an extremely tough game, higher elevation. We'll have our hands full."

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