Ashland takes on the best

Carsen Maciag | For the TidingsAshland Iguanas head coach Bradd Roupp, center, works with the team during practice Wednesday at Ashland Middle School. The players are, left to right, Weston Overland, Ryan Chasmar, coach Roupp, Nate Roupp and Kevin Cassidy.

Local prep sports fans who miss the days when Ashland High competed against the largest schools in the state can take a trip down memory lane this weekend when an Ashland U-17 boys soccer team travels north for the Oregon Youth Soccer State Cup semifinals.

The Ashland Iguanas, who beat the LOSC Swoosh 2-1 and the Rogue Valley Soccer Club 90 Boys of Medford 1-0 to advance to the semis, take on East Side Roma of Portland on Saturday for a trip to the Cup championship match.

The 13-player Ashland squad is a combined team that also includes three players from Klamath Falls. The Iguanas are coached by Bradd Roupp of Ashland and Rich Kelly of Klamath Falls.

The State Cup is an annual tournament that draws the best youth soccer players in Oregon. Most of the teams that participate are all-star collections, however, which makes Ashland's success that much more surprising. The Iguanas aren't the only team from the Rogue Valley that's still alive, either. The RVSC 90 Boys face West Side International in the other semifinal.

"The key for this game is that we must be mentally ready to play, much more so than physically," said Roupp, who chaperoned most of the same players on a soccer tour through Europe last month. "Physically, we match up well with them. Mentally, we have to know that this is a team that we can beat."

Attempting to clear that mental hurdle will be a group of mostly Ashland-bred players who helped the Grizzlies advance to the OSAA Class 5A state quarterfinals in November. That list includes Southern Sky Conference all-stars Tias Fitzpatrick and Nate Roupp and SSC honorable mentions Ryan Chasmar, Derek Owens-Oas and Wes Overland.

Ashland hopes it can break through Saturday after two previous losses to East Side Roma. Both those games were close however, with ESU Roma winning 1-0 and 2-1.

"If we play our 'A' game, I feel that we can play very well against them," Nate Roupp said. "The first couple times we played them we didn't play so well &

we were just kicking the ball wherever we wanted to and we weren't controlling the ball at all. So, if we control the ball and play our game, I feel like we can beat them."

Sam Fleuter, an Ashland High junior fullback, agrees.

"We've been playing against these guys for like five or six years now and we've been able to compete with them most of the time," he said. "They're such a consistent team so what we're going to have to do is play a lot more consistent than we have been. Over this weekend even though we beat a good team we haven't been playing good all the time. We need to step it up and play good the whole game."

The Cup semifinals and finals will be played at the Tualatin Hills Recreation Center in Beaverton, with the finals set to be played May 3. For more information, visit Oregon Youth Soccer online at .

Sports editor can be reached at 482-3456 x 224 or joe.

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