NORTH BEND — If there was ever a game for the North Bend girls soccer team to get lucky, it was its home opener Thursday afternoon against Elmira.
After dominating the first half and most of the second, the Bulldogs conceded a free kick goal in the 77th minute, equalizing the match and giving the Falcons momentum for the first time all day.
But North Bend’s offense was too much, and Morgan Bream’s corner kick in the 80th minute bounced off Falcons defender Jadenn Blunt and into the goal to give the Bulldogs an unlikely 3-2 win.
“It was questionable at the end. Not a lot of people can pull off a goal in the last minute,” North Bend junior Haley Snelgrove said. “I’m very proud that we did it. We didn’t give up, just pushing to the end is what keeps us going.”
The win was a coming out party of sorts for a sizable group of North Bend freshmen. Molly Picatti and Megan Proett were forces in the middle and on the edges, and Rylee Mathews was solid on the field in the first half and in goal in the second.
“I think that without them, we wouldn’t be the team we are, obviously,” Snelgrove said of the freshmen. “They’re more than half our team. They’ve been playing together for a long time. I think them having a lot of chemistry helps us a lot.”
In fact, in was Picatti’s throw-ins that got North Bend going offensively. Just two minutes into play, Picatti lobbed a deep throw from directly in front of Elmira’s bench all the way to the box, where Bream corralled it in front of the Elmira defense on a perfect breakaway, but her shot was just off the mark.
Just a couple minutes later, Picatti sent another deep throw into the box, this time gathered by Haley Edwards, who crossed late to Proett for an easy goal and a 1-0 lead.
Picatti added to the lead in the 11th minute when she got to a loose ball just outside the box and sent a clever chip shop over the head of Falcons keeper Kylee Anderson.
But that was the extent of North Bend’s scoring, despite good looks, until the end of the match. Bream managed to dribble through the whole of the Elmira defense but shot wide right. Snelgrove had a couple good looks, including a penalty kick in the 38th minute, but couldn’t cash any of them.
And, simultaneously, Elmira began to work North Bend’s defense playing in front of a couple new keepers in Preston Langmead and Mathews. Elmira got a penalty kick in the 14th minute when a scrum ensued for a loose ball in the North Bend box. Kaycee Monagon drove it home to cut North Bend’s lead in half at 2-1.
Elmira had more offensive success in the second half, though it still had few sustained attacks and therefore never truly tested North Bend’s defense. Mathews had a several saves in the final 40 minutes, but couldn’t keep one close enough to her and it almost cost North Bend.
In the 77th minute, Elmira lined up for a free kick deep in the North Bend end with the Bulldogs still up 2-1. Myckenzi Moore’s boot was on target and Mathews tried to punch it away, but it landed right at Monagon’s feet and she equalized the score with fewer than three minutes remaining.
Here North Bend’s offense once again found its stride despite fatigue creeping in. Kalista Ross took a shot soon after, then Aiyanna Miller took a try. Miller’s shot was deflected out of bounds for the final corner kick, giving Bream a chance to lob a set piece in and hopefully have something good happen.
It did, as it found Blunt and bounced in, giving Elmira just 40 seconds with which to work.
“We told Morgan to take her time and you never know what’s gonna happen,” North Bend coach Dustin Hood said. “It ping-pongs around and we got lucky there. I felt we outplayed them for most of the game.”
North Bend has a week off before travelling to Philomath for a 4 p.m. date with the Warriors next Thursday.