McNary midfielder Kennedy Buss (20) takes the ball away from a South Medford player with a sliding tackle (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).
It may have not been the result they were originally hoping for, but it was still a positive outcome for the McNary girls soccer team against the reigning Southwest Conference champions.
After falling behind 2-0 in the first half, the Celtics rallied for a pair of goals in the final 30 minutes to salvage a 2-2 tie with South Medford on Friday, Sept. 6 in the home opener.
“I loved the heart and the effort we showed after going down two goals. We responded very well,” McNary head coach A.J. Nash said. “Yes, we could have played better. Yes, the result could have been different. But all-in-all, I think there is a ton to build on.”
Despite outshooting South Medford by a 3-1 margin in the first 40 minutes, the Celtics weren’t able to take advantage of some golden opportunities. And late in the first half, the Panthers made them pay.
In the 27th minute, McNary forward Audrey Williams found Julie Dieker cutting towards the box with a chance to break the scoreless tie. Dieker pinned her defender on her hip and got free with a spin move, but couldn’t quite get enough velocity on her shot attempt as the ball was saved by South Medford keeper Jaeda Boutwell.
After Boutwell cleared the ball into the midfield, the McNary defense had a momentary lapse that proved costly as Panthers forward Isabella Bottero carved through the Celtics back line to score an easy goal that gave her team the lead.
“We relaxed and we got caught off guard,” Nash said about his team’s defensive breakdown.
Less than two minutes later, Bottero struck again, this time with a well-placed free kick that got over a wall of three Celtics players, just sneaking between the crossbar and the outstretched hand of McNary goalie Ashley Doerfler.
A lot of teams might be discouraged by a 2-0 halftime deficit, especially if they feel like they are outplaying their opponents. But when the second half began, McNary competed with an intensity that South Medford struggled to keep up with.
“In 50/50 situations, we were the hungrier team and we had more desire. Both of our goals were a demonstration of that,” Nash said.
In the 49th minute, Santana placed a beautiful corner kick into an array of Celtic and Panther players. McNary’s Samantha Alfano was the one that got a touch on the ball as she was able to gather to control it with her feet and sent a bullet past a trio of defenders and into the twine for the score.
After Alfano’s goal, the momentum seemed to shift to McNary’s side.
“Once we scored, it made us believe that we could get the ball back and do it again,” said Santana, who assisted on both McNary goals. “We just needed to keep our heads up and work as a team.”
In the 70th minute, the Celtics did just that.
After coming away with a steal near midfield, Santana sent the ball ahead to Caitlyn Kiefiuk-Yates, who had a one-on-one battle for possession of the ball.
“I just wanted to get myself in position to get the ball to the corner,” Kiefiuk-Yates said.
Kiefiuk-Yates was able to outmuscle the South Medford central defender and just squeeze a shot into the bottom left-corner of the goal to tie up the score to tie the score at 2-2.
Although they were happy to comeback and tie the score, McNary had ample opportunities to win the game outright.
McNary’s best chance to take the lead came in the final minute of the contest when Dieker got an open look in the box after receiving a great throw-in from Kennedy Buss.
But Dieker’s shot attempt was a little too strong as the ball just sailed over the top off the crossbar.
McNary returns home on Monday, Sept. 16 against Sheldon. Game time is at 7 p.m.