By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — It wasn’t even close.
Maybe that’s the first thing to remember when considering what the Norman North girls did Friday afternoon at John Crain Field, crushing Edmond Memorial 3-0 to claim the program’s first state soccer championship.
The Timberwolves were the better team up front, the better team in the midfield and the better team in back.
They might have been better in goal, too, but you’d never know because Kali Newman was hardly tested thanks to the fine work of her defense.
Meanwhile, Memorial freshman Courtney Glenn had to be outstanding to limit North to two goals when it could have had five before she left late in the second half, her coach allowing senior Carly Caplinger to log some Class 6A title game time.
What began the first night of the playoffs continued all the way to the end, as the T-Wolves played their best game of the season in four consecutive turns on the pitch: the round of 16, the round of eight, Tuesday’s semifinal and Friday’s championship.
“Our goal was to win state and we realized now is the time to step it up, and we brought all of our momentum and all of our hard work and channeled it into these four games,” said Newman, an Oklahoma signee, who will soon call John Crain Field her soccer home.
Lexi Carroll scored the first goal on anticipation and guile. Hannah Livingston, off a Carroll corner kick, scored the second with a beautiful header almost from the top of the box. Finally, Haley Woodard, who’d been stoned more than once by Glenn, slipped one past Caplinger with 18:10 remaining.
There was no wave of joyful tears only because the Timberwolves had about half an hour to come to terms with the moment they’d created. Everybody’d been hugged several times before the buzzer.
North and Memorial had played once during the regular season, a game the T-Wolves claimed 3-2 in double overtime. Comparatively, this was a breeze.
The game’s first chance belonged to Bulldog forward Laramie Hall, who created her own opportunity in the North end. Still, hounded by North defenders, she got little on her shot and Newman easily stopped it.
The next chance belonged to the T-Wolves and appeared thwarted when Francesca Ryan wound up on an outside-the-box right-footed crank only to whip the ball into the back of a Memorial defender, before it bounced across the box.
“I anticipated it going all the way through, because that seems to happen a lot, and I saw it having backspin and I knew that these opportunities don’t come that often,” Carroll said. “I just took hold of it and stayed composed and placed it in the corner where she couldn’t reach it.”
It was fortuitous bounce, but Carroll had the presence to be ready. Glenn had no chance to stop it and the T-Wolves were on their way.
“I knew that once I scored,” Carroll said, “we would take off from there.”
The game was only 4 1/2 minutes old.
It took a while to get to 2-0, but that was due to Glenn’s heroics. When Carroll’s corner found Livingston’s noggin with 30:25 remaining, it was pretty much over.
The few times Memorial attempted to counter, North’s back line of Bri Kuestersteffen, Simone Ryan, Yazmeen Ryan and Rachel Gipson would snuff it out before it became a real threat.
“We have really good chemistry together,” Kuestersteffen said.
They did Friday.
The players, after beginning their postseason run with a 5-0 whitewashing of Southmoore, attributed their improved game to a talk coach Don Rother had with them the day before in practice, one that included themes like opportunity and focus.
Saturday, Rother gave the credit back to his players.
“That’s just great talent,” he said. “They had the heart, they had the work rate, but overall, every player I put on the field is extremely talented. We don’t have any holes and it makes it difficult on teams.”
Opportunity, talent, focus? Put together, it’s hard to beat.
“We knew we had the team this year,” Simone Ryan said.
North sure did.
Follow me @clayhorning
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