By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — From the it’s-not-about-where-you-start-but-about-how-you-finish department, Class 6A prep soccer brings you the Norman High girls.
The playoffs are a week away and the Tigers may feel cheated if they don’t score at least one postseason victory, but where the regular season’s concerned, NHS’ transformation may be pretty historic.
The Tigers began the season 0-7, yet Tuesday night, meeting Edmond Santa Fe at Gordon Drummond Field with home field the first night of the playoffs on the line, the Tigers prevailed 1-0.
With that win, NHS completed its regular season with a 5-8 mark, yet a 5-2 mark in District 6A-1.
“Clearly, we turned our season around,” coach Tyler Hardage said.
Tuesday night’s victory wasn’t textbook. For most of the first 40 minutes, the Tigers dominated. Over the last 40, neither team dominated, though more of the game was played in and nearer the NHS penalty box than the Santa Fe box.
Still, it was the Tigers cashing in the only goal, and what a goal it was.
Asha Haile, back in the lineup, played a perfect ball to her left, that allowed Kinsleigh Robb, though marked, to reach it with enough space to control the ball. Yet, rather than control it, Robb decided to let it fly.
From about 24 yards away, above the top right corner of the penalty box as Santa Fe keeper Kaitlin Price looked out from her net, Robb crushed the ball with her left foot, zooming it past Price who couldn’t have expected that kind of velocity.
“It works for me sometimes,” Robb said. “Whenever I get into it and the adrenaline gets going, I can just shoot.”
On the other end of the field, Tiger keeper Hannah Moore had one of her most productive nights, stopping all seven of Santa Fe’s 12 shots that were on frame.
“I like staying busy,” she said.
Moore also had a thought on the season, recalling that it was a three-game tournament weekend in Tulsa where everything turned around for the Tigers.
“(We) divide our season into three sections: pre-Tulsa, Tulsa and post-Tulsa,” she said, “and post-Tulsa has been amazing and we just don’t like thinking about before.”
Midfielder Gracie Koonce, who almost set up Haile for a goal and then fed Haile, who fed Robb for the goal, believes it’s all coming together for the Tigers.
“We’re reaching a peak at the right time,” she said.
Also, said Koonce, “We wanted to get home field.”
The Tigers got it.
Norman North girls 2, Mustang 1: Norman North girls coach Don Rother wanted to reward his seniors and he did it by playing them almost exclusively the first 24 minutes and the last 10 Tuesday night at the North pitch.
So, even though the Timberwolves 2-1 victory might not appear that impressive, the minute they played as they would have on any other night were, in Rother’s estimation, among their best of the season.
In between those two spans, North scored both its goals and had opportunities to score many more. Though it took most of the first half for North to put its first shot at the Broncos, the T-Wolves exited the game with an 18-9 advantage.
“As far as playing quick and playing together, I thought it was the we’ve done (this season),” Rother said. “I don’t know how we didn’t score in the first half.”
However, it didn’t take long in the second.
Lexi Carroll, off a cross from Haley Woodard, tied the game 1-1 just 3 minutes into the half. Ten minutes later, off an assist from Sheridan Spelman, Francesca Ryan scored the game winner.”
The T-Wolves (11-2, 7-0 District 6A-2) like where they are headed into the playoffs.
“It was a good tuneup,” Rother said.
Norman High boys 3, Edmond Santa Fe 2: Here’s one for the time capsule. Edmond Santa Fe led 2-0 before 10 minutes had even elapsed. Crazier, the Tigers had posted shutouts in five of their last seven games.
The comeback began with a penalty kick from Theo Ostas. The Tigers tied the game when Zac Terry finished off a skirmish that began with J.P. Pelletier’s corner kick in the 61st minute.
In the shootout that followed, NHS picked up conversions from Preston Thomason, Ostas, Matt Hockett and Haydn Jones. Goalkeeper Austin Early made two saves to seal the victory, securing home field for the Tigers (10-3, 6-1 District 6A-1) the first round of the playoffs.
Norman North boys 4, Mustang 0: The T-Wolves did it again, catching fire early to eliminate all upset hopes the Broncos might have entertained.
Scoreless until seventh minute, North led 3-0 by the time the 10th minute had elapsed, getting goals from Mauro Cichero, Jacob Jerles and, assisted by Cichero, Jerles again.
“I’m very pleased,” said North coach Geo Claros, whose team moved to 13-0 and 7-0 in District 6A-2.
Follow me @clayhorning