By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — The Norman North girls have the talent and experience to go win a Class 6A state title this season. Friday night, the Timberwolves received a lesson in the kind of precision that quest might also take.
For a good part of the game, and later in a shootout, the T-Wolves struggled to put passes together, to get their shots on frame, to generally move the ball where it needed to go. The end result was a 2-1 victory for Tulsa Union.
The Redskins prevailed 3-2 in the shootout that was required after both teams failed to score over the final 26:45.
“I thought it was a good game,” said North coach Don Rother. “I think that’s why you play good teams right out of the gate.”
Union took the game’s first lead with 33:48 remaining when Rachel VanTossen lifted a shot from about 25 yards to that didn’t appear very dangerous until it was sailing through the air. Eventually, Van Tossen’s lob occupied the space above North keeper Kali Newman’s outstretched arm and below the crossbar, the place so many girls’ soccer goals are tallied.
North tied it up about 7 minutes later when Francesca Ryan assisted older sister Simone Ryan, sort of.
It happened when younger Ryan — but not the youngest: Yazmeen Ryan, a freshman, also started along the back line with sister Simone — was pulled down in the penalty box. That created a penalty kick that was taken and put away by the eldest Ryan.
“I thought we were much more organized in the second half,” Rother said.
The T-Wolves were, yet they got very little for it.
Though they owned enough of the attack to earn six corner kicks to Union’s two, not only did that kind of possession not amount to anything on the scoreboard, but hardly to anything that required saving by Union keeper Hailey Melton.
“We weren’t able to finish chances,” North senior midfielder Lexi Carroll said. “There were plenty of times we could have scored.”
Melton made two saves before making two more in the shootout. Meanwhile, Newman turned back nine Redskin shots, two of which, off the foot of Union’s Megan Thomas, a lesser keeper probably doesn’t stop.
North just couldn’t turn its possession into real scoring opportunities.
“We were so focused on getting the ball through (Union’s defense) that we weren’t looking for feet,” Simone Ryan said.
Both Rother and his players said the squad came out nervous and anxious, but that they thought things got better as the game went along.
“When we were within 35 yards of the goal, I thought we were trying to go 1,000 miles an hour,” Rother said. “If you slow down and make that extra pass it gives you more options.”
Maybe next time.
The loss sets up a very unusual Crosstown Clash Tuesday night at John Crain Field, one in which both North and Norman High will both be looking for their first win.
Follow me @clayhorning
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