Grizz aim for state title(s)

The Ashland High boys soccer team isn't the only local squad with a chance to make history this weekend.

The Ashland High club water polo teams, both the girls and the boys, head to Corvallis on Friday for their own chance at state championship glory. Each will take part in four-team state tournaments, with the winners being crowed following the championship games Saturday morning.

The semifinals will be played Friday: the Ashland girls face North Eugene at 1:20 p.m. and the Ashland boys play Cottage Grove at 3:40 p.m. The losers of Friday's games will also play Saturday to determine third and fourth place.

Both Ashland teams have reason to feel confident in the semis. The Ashland boys swept its season series with Cottage Grove, including a 12-5 win in the district tournament Oct. 25, while the Ashland girls won two of three matches against North Eugene.

"It's probably going to be a good, competitive game, but I think we're feeling pretty good about what our chances are," Ashland's Lucas Opgenorth said of the boys game. "We have been plagued with a few setbacks recently — a lot of the players on our team have been stricken with several different kinds of illness — but we're starting to recover from that and these practices this week so far have been pretty productive."

The Grizz girls are confident as well. They beat North Eugene in the first two meetings between the teams, but fell 6-5 in the district finals.

It's definitely the confidence factor for us," Ashland goalkeeper Carlee Santee said of the girls' title hopes. "As long as we know we can do it, and we're in the right mood and not down on ourselves in any way, then we play well."

Both Ashland teams are coached by Christi Gilmore, who said the Grizzlies will be looking for the program's first state title — or first two titles. The Ashland boys did advance to the state championship game in 2001, but lost to Westview. The tourney is the first since a water polo reclassification, which will prevent 6A and 5A teams from competing against each other in the postseason.

Gilmore hopes success will spur more local support.

"This is a huge deal," Gilmore said. "Since it's the first 5A state (tournament), if we could win both of them it would set a precedent and hopefully people would stand up and notice that in Ashland we need an aquatics program."

We need a pool for a home for the Ashland swim team, for kids and youth and everything."

Sports editor Joe Zavala can be reached at 482-3456 x 224 or

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