Grizzlies' goal is not enough

It took all of one minute in the 2008 season for the Ashland High girls to find the goal.

Over the next 79 minutes, though, the Grizzlies' opponents proved to be as uncooperative as that same goal was stealthy.

Familiar 6A foe Grants Pass improved to 2-0 on the season, spoiling Ashland's opener with a 3-1 win at North Mountain Park behind a pair of scores from junior Cassie DeRocher.

Raven Susu-Mayo scrapped around to get Ashland on the board for the first time this year, but the lead stood for only seven minutes as Grants Pass forward Jessica Bath chipped one in from right in front of the Grizzly bench and over the outstretched arms of freshman keeper Rinchen Thomas to tie the game.

"I knew we were out of shape, so all I asked was that we come out hard and that's what we did," Ashland coach Eric Wolff said, citing excessively casual play to begin games last year as motivation. "It was a great start, which was really just what we needed."

Junior Kai Yearsley's header was the closest thing to another Ashland goal, but the ball bounced off the crossbar and back onto the field to put any hopes of momentum on hold.

Ashland then dodged a few bullets 38 minutes into the frame, fending off a direct kick and two corner kicks spanning 90 seconds to send the teams into the halftime deadlocked.

The Grizzlies looked like a team much improved what Wolff described as "discombobulated" in their opening jamboree last weekend.

"From where we were a week ago, I'm very pleased," he said. "I'm not even worried about the scores until the playoffs — they can give you the wrong impressions of these games."

The aforementioned DeRocher took center stage in the second half as the forward converted a direct kick at the 47-minute mark and then tacked on another goal in the same fashion with a few minutes remaining.

Aside from the irrefutable marksmanship of the Lady Cavers, who seemingly placed each of their goals at the uppermost part of the net, Thomas' keeping debut was far from disappointing as the freshman yielded little else and notched a handful of noteworthy stops.

"Those were just great shots," Wolff added. "You need a professional goalkeeper to stop those."

Comparatively, the loss looked fairly modest compared to the 6-0 thumping Grants Pass laid on Ashland's Southern Sky rival Crater in the Lady Cavers' opener.

Not quite sharp, the Grizzlies were at least solid enough for defender Kelsey McKinnis to sport a grin on her face after the effort.

"I was definitely impressed with our intensity," the senior said. "We just have so many new people and we're in a new system, but I think this showed we have lots of potential."

Ashland will continue to prepare for Southern Sky play by traveling north for a Saturday meeting with Roseburg before returning home to tangle with Summit next Friday at 4 p.m.

Loop action begins Sept. 23 and, in the meantime, Wolff hopes to integrate younger players (his roster includes only three seniors) into his system, a process that suffered a minor setback in the second half when sophomore defender Katelyn Walker limped awkwardly off the field. Walker appeared to injure her knee and Wolff said she is at least doubtful for this weekend.

McKinnis is confident the Grizzlies will look forward to improving in multiple facets of the game regardless.

"We just need to get better at connecting our passes and finishing more opportunities," she said. "Grants Pass is a really good team, though, so we're okay with this and we know we'll be fine."

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