SOU soccer team wallops NW Christian

Freshmen netted five goals in Southern Oregon's 7-1 Cascade Conference-opening romp of Northwest Christian Wednesday afternoon at University Field.

The outcome was almost never in doubt as the Raiders (3-2-1) controlled the ball and the pace for 90 minutes and out-shot the Beacons (0-5-1) 45-7.

The Raiders pressured the Northwest defense and goalkeeper Bethany McAlister from the opening kick. In the 11th minute, SOU broke the seal as freshman Justina Macdowell dribbled to the goal's mouth and slipped the ball past a diving McAlister.

Soon after, senior captain Brei McCoy managed a break for the goal, but was denied by the crossbar. The potent SOU attack wouldn't remain stagnant for long, however.

In the 23rd minute, senior captain Morgan Spencer sent a precise corner kick to a waiting Stacy Szeto. The freshman put her head to the ball, sending it to the upper-left corner for a 2-0 SOU lead.

The SOU dominance continued, but the Raiders couldn't find the scoreboard again in the first stanza. half's end, SOU had out-shot the Beacons 28-2 and had not allowed a shot on goal.

If there was any doubt of the outcome at the half, the Raiders snuffed it out with a pair of tallies early in the second half.

In the 48th minute, freshman Kayla Wilhelm knocked home a bouncing rebound from a Sara Switzer shot. Less than three minutes later, freshman Auika Muragin took the ball from midfield by herself and beat the keeper to the right. Suddenly the Raider advantage was doubled to 4-0.

Second-year coach Jon Clement said he talked to his Raiders during the intermission about making a 2-0 halftime lead into an unreachable one.

"I was really happy that we got two goals in the first seven or eight minutes of the second half," said Clement. "It really sealed the game away for us. That's the mark of a team on its way to doing really good things."

Northwest showed small signs of offensive life, finally registering shots on goal, but they were all from long-distance and posed no real challenge to SOU senior keeper Melanie Hopkins.

However, in the 61st minute, Northwest's Samantha Stewart drew a foul in the box, earning a penalty kick. Stewart snuck the shot past the out-stretched hands of Hopkins for team's third goal in NAIA competition. The Beacons are in a probationary first year of membership in the association.

The Raiders continued to threaten the Northwest defense with numerous crossing passes from Switzer. Switzer connected with Macdowell many times, who led SOU with 10 shots on the day.

"In the second half everyone was working collectively," said Macdowell. "It was pretty cool. So I got to get in for crosses and stuff. They all went off the post though. I just got one, but it was fun."

It was one of SOU's six corner kicks that would again expand their lead in the 71st minute. It was nearly a carbon copy of SOU's second goal, as Szeto headed a Kelly Clark kick to the top-left corner, giving the Raiders a 5-1 lead.

"They were good balls, great balls from the corner," Szeto said. "They were just good balls and a good finish. I like to head."

In the 75th minute, senior Anna Hidle put a tear drop of a shot over the head of the keeper from about 20-yards out to increase the lead to five. The route was finalized in the 83rd minute when Clark added a goal to her assist with a shot to the lower-right corner.

SOU managed six corner kicks to the Beacons' one as well as notching 28 shots on goal to Northwest's four.

Next on the docket for the Raiders is the hosting of No. 8 Carroll College from Montana on Sunday. The benchmark game should show the Raiders exactly where they stand now, and where they want to be in the future. Clement is excited for the challenge.

"We know for sure Carroll is a whole different type of challenge," Clement said. "They're going to be fast and athletic and have a lot of attacking flare and we're certainly looking forward to it. One of the things I'd really like to do here is continually bring in the top teams in the country and play them. I can't wait for Sunday. I wish it were Sunday tomorrow, but obviously it's a good thing to have a little bit of recovery and a couple days of training to get ready for it. But we're looking forward to it. I say bring it on."

Clement said that in order to topple the Saints, the Raiders will have to elevate their level of play on both sides of the pitch and be opportunistic with the chances they are allowed.

"We probably won't get as many as we had today," he said. "The ones we do get, we're going to have to be good on. Also, we've got to be clinical in our set pieces. On the defending side we have to be really good and when we do get an attacking set piece, we have to make it a hellish experience for their team."

Kickoff with Carroll will take place noon Sunday at University Field.

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

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