Grizzlies maul Mazama in conference opener

The biggest question from Ashland's conference-opening win: What did keeper Wes Overland do with all his free time while his teammates wore down Mazama on the opposite end of the field?

The Grizzlies recovered from early struggles and countered a defensive Mazama game-plan with an offensive showcase, winning their first Southern Sky Conference game 6-0 Tuesday.

Senior midfielder Nate Roupp and junior forward Adam Pavlich did most of the damage, each striking for two goals while boosting their team-leading goal totals to seven apiece.

The Grizzlies (5-1-1, 1-0) appeared to be in the driver's seat from the start, controlling the ball as they connected impressively. The problem, though, was they didn't score through the opening 32 minutes.

Although the overmatched Vikings (2-2, 1-1) didn't attempt their first shot until 25 minutes into the first half, they were perfectly content with a scoreless game.

"We came out really slow," Roupp said. "We were obviously controlling the game at first but we just weren't doing anything with the ball."

With the Ashland cheering section nearing the brink of impatience nervous chatter in midseason form, Pavlich delivered. After scrambling to retrieve an already headed-ball off a corner kick, Pavlich used his own head to redirect the ball toward the net, but as quickly as his right fist went into the air in celebration he found the ball at his right foot after a deflection and kicked it in from close.

With that, the flood gates opened.

"It was good to get on the board," Pavlich said, "because we were struggling and all the sudden (Mazama) couldn't play for the tie anymore."

Miles Fidler's pass connected with forward Simon Lindsay inside the box with 30 seconds left in the half, and the senior's sliding kick found the top of the net and gave the Grizzlies a 2-0 edge going into the half.

"Mazama played a very defensive first half, and we hadn't spent any time playing against a bunker defense," Grizzlies first-year head coach Brad Roupp said. "At some point, we started moving the ball across the field with speed and got (Mazama) to spread out and we found some seams."

Nate Roupp's bullet of a shot from 20 yards out ricocheted off a defender and found the corner of the goal three minutes into the second half, with Lindsay assisting.

Four minutes later, Roupp struck again, launching a direct kick into the goal, and the Grizzlies found themselves with the insurance of a 4-0 lead.

Dakota Wolff provided more cushion, and Pavlich tacked on the last goal in the 81st minute as Ashland cruised to the buzzer fielding only nine players.

"We started playing a little better in the second half," Pavlich said. "As our energy level went up, so did the speed of play and we didn't let them slow us down at all."

The Grizzlies, who have assumed the role of the conference's juggernaut since its inception two years ago, can expect more "defensive" play from their opponents as they will face their first road test at Eagle Point on Saturday.

"I would guess we'll see a lot more of the same," Brad Roupp said. "We're just going to spend the week working the ball across the field with more speed, and we're going to get a little more creative up front."

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