NORTH BEND — Used to scoring goals in the run of play, there was a new challenge for Molly Picatti on Tuesday night: a penalty kick.
After being fouled in the box in the opening minutes of the scoreless second half, Picatti went to the spot for a chance to give the North Bend girls soccer team a lead over third-ranked Thurston.
“So I actually have not taken a PK in my high school career. This was my first one. I’ve taken them in little kid ball. I was really scared, I was super scared,” said Picatti, who placed the ball low and to the left as she recorded the only goal of the game. “It went in and it was just like 100 pounds lifted off my shoulders.”
North Bend’s 1-0 home win over Thurston snapped a three-game losing streak for the Bulldogs and gave the team its second Midwestern League-win of the season.
“I’m feeling really happy. I’m really thrilled about this game tonight, we played really good,” said Picatti. “I feel like it’s really uplifting to our team. We just came in and we were going for it. We didn’t want to lose — let’s win, let’s tie, just don’t lose.”
The Colts came out attacking in the opening five minutes — including what initially appeared to be a goal from 30-yards out from Marcella Weiss on an indirect free kick — but it was North Bend reining the game in through possession.
The Bulldogs applied pressure on the Thurston defense throughout the first half, and game, but were unable to turn chances into shots. North Bend finished the game with two shots — one in each half. It was a different story for the Colts as the team tallied 17 shots in the match.
“I don’t know how many shots we missed but it’s really, really tough and it’s hard to see,” said Thurston head coach Benton Canaga. “We just weren’t making shots. A lot of them weren’t going over and that happens, it’s just an off shooting game I guess."
With Thurston getting plenty of chances all night, including 10 shots in the second half, it was North Bend’s defense, including freshman goalie Rachael Snyder, continuously stepping up. Snyder had save after save including one-on-one saves from inside the 18 from Thurston’s Victoria Murphy and Kylie Jones.
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“I go into every game confident. Even if it’s a really hard team,” said Snyder, referencing Thurston’s high-ranking. “That was scary. I was like, O.K., might as well just full send. Just go in for it and if it gets blocked, that’s great and if it doesn’t, well at least I tried.”
Snyder was helped by a strong defense that included key contributions from Megan Proett, in her second game back from injury, who covered lots of ground in the midfield and Rylee Matthews at left back who constantly was coming away with successful challenges.
“I think this was one of our best games, if not the best. I think that being able to be up one and play like it’s 0-0 shows a good player in every single one of us,” said Matthews.
Up a goal five minutes into the second half, North Bend was able to weather Thurston’s initial attacks by maintaining possession. Thurston’s offense came alive, helped by the technical play of the freshman Jones patrolling in the center of the field, but the Colts were unable to find an elusive goal.
Now with three games left in the regular season, North Bend is looking for a late-season playoff push. The Bulldogs sit at sixth place in the especially competitive Midwestern League that currently has six of the top 13 teams in state.
The top four teams in league automatically qualify for the playoffs while the highest-ranked fifth place team between the Midwestern and Mid-Willamette leagues will also earn a spot. With games against 18th-ranked Crater, ninth-ranked Willamette and fourth-ranked Churchill, North Bend is needing some key results down the stretch.
“We’ve had a couple hiccups in league play but we’ve had injuries. Now we’re coming back from those injuries, we’ve played the tough teams and we’re in every game. So to put it together and put a stamp on it, we’re a force to be reckoned with,” said head coach Tony Picatti.
“This game is something to build on. The season is not over.”