Grizzlies pleased with draw

Rinchen Thomas made 10 saves, including several of the fingertip variety, to help Ashland withstand a 19-3 shot disparity and tie Grants Pass 2-2 in a gruelling nonconference girls soccer battle Tuesday at North Mountain Park.

Freshman Facien Graham scored an equalizer for Ashland in the first half and senior Madeline Wilson gave the Grizzlies a 2-1 lead 25 minutes into the second before Grants Pass countered seven minutes later.

Nobody scored over the last 17 minutes of regulation and 20 minutes of overtime, although the Lady Cavers (2-1-1) had several golden opportunities turned away by the nearly impenetrable Thomas. The four-year starter made a lunging save in extra-time to keep the game going, then leaped and tipped over the crossbar a would-be goal with three minutes to go in overtime to help the Grizzlies (4-0-1) remain undefeated.

The Grizzlies were all smiles afterward, and exhausted, following their second overtime game in four days after beating South Medford on Saturday.

"Phenomenal," Ashland head coach Eric Wolff said. "I didn't expect us to do as well as we are because we lost so many strong seniors. I was a little worried about the team at the beginning of the year. But like I say, everybody's stepping up, everybody's doing a little bit more and it's a team effort now. We're not relying on any individuals."

The Lady Cavers struck first when Sydney Lawless crossed the ball to Andrea Theriau, who finished a hard 10-yard strike just inside the near post.

The score capped an impressive start for Grants Pass, which nearly scored only four minutes into the game when another Theriau blast clanged off the post.

The Lady Cavers didn't stay ahead for long, however, because on the Grizzlies' very next rush one minute later the fleet of foot Graham dribbled into position then hammered home a 20-yard lefty laser. The ball was picture perfect, sailing just under the post and over the outstretched hands of Grants Pass' keeper Mattea Tibbits.

In the second half Ashland scratched and clawed just to keep the game tied, then out of nowhere took advantage of one of its few scoring opportunities to take the lead.

Luck was involved. After an aggressive push into the GP box, the Lady Cavers' attempt to clear ricochetted off Wilson and into the goal from 15 yards out.

"We had numbers in the attack, so when they finally got to the ball they were feeling the stress of pressure trying to clear the ball and (Wilson) just stepped into the right place there," Wolff said. "Obviously it's a lucky goal, but she was there. We forced them to try and clear it under pressure, so great job being there and getting a lucky bounce there."

The Lady Cavers struck back in the 65th when Lawless' high shot from 15 yards away slipped over Thomas and into the net.

Grants Pass nearly took the lead four minutes later but another spectacular punch-out by Thomas kept the game tied. Thomas also ran up to slide tackle out another dangerous opportunity in the first half, cut off several good crosses and generally was a terror all night long for the visiting Lady Cavers.

"She's improved every year and she's played winter season," Wolff said of Thomas. "The defense did a good job minimizing the good opportunities for Grants Pass, and whatever came through (Thomas) got. And the two goals that went in were just great, fantastic plays by Grants Pass so I can't really fault anybody for that."

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