Carroll scored first, squandered the lead and then scored last to put away the Oregon Institute of Technology 2-1 on Thursday at Nelson Stadium.

The Saints got on the board just before the half expired when Henry Smaldon received a ball from Jose Mena, who had to thread three defenders to give it to his freshman midfielder, coming open.

“When I turned I had three players on me and I thought about, ‘There should be a hole somewhere,’” said Mena, who finished with a pair of assists. The game served as Mena’s first back after sitting out the previous three weeks with a groin injury. “I looked for a hole and I found it. I just passed it and Henry put it in. It was good.

“Once I took the step in the middle when I saw the spot, I saw Henry going the other way and I Just passed it with my left without looking and he was there. It worked.”

Carroll (8-7, 6-4 Cascade Collegiate Conference) took a 1-0 lead into halftime of an aggressive, back-and-forth contest. The second half started with a pair of yellow cards awarded to Carroll’s James Lamont and Sam Malouf on what the referee deemed over-aggression.

“It was a chippy game,” coach Doug Mello said. “But you know, that’s how the playoffs are going to be. Every team needs a win. It’s not going to be shoulder to shoulder. It’s going to be hard tackles.”

Mello himself snagged a yellow card for arguing a judgment by the referee. To go along with a yellow card by OIT’s Lodewij Bloemzaad, in total there were four yellow cards in the match.

The Owls (8-5-2, 5-4-1) struck back in the 61st minute on a goal by GeRysand Cabanilla when he chipped Carroll’s Bernhardt Di Cino. Beside the blemish, Di Cino had two saves and played a good game, Mello said.

“I think defensively Bernie had some good saves in goal,” Mello said. “They like to send some long diagonal balls in. The fellas were ready for it. We won a lot of balls in the air. Jake Groh and Eric Hollenbaugh ... We had good work from James Lamont and other folks.”

Mello adjusted his lineup in the second half. A few players changed positions, but the coach noted the play of Jose Porras.

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“We kind of put him in a semi-defensive position with the freedom to move up and spray some shots,” Mello said. “He’s too good of a player not to be on the field. He needs to be out there because he’s that good.”

Carroll grabbed the game-winning goal in the 71st minute. Kyle Thomsen rebounded a missed shot by Mena and finished the second chance.

“I think Jose Mena had the ball on the left side he beat a player and cut in and took a shot toward the far post and the keeper parried it and I just followed up,” Thomsen said. “I was in the right spot at the right time.

“This was big for us. We’re starting to pick back up in the season and getting to a spot where we want to be heading into the playoffs.”

The Saints take on Southern Oregon (8-2-2, 6-1-2) on Friday.

“They’re the real deal,” Mello said. “They’ve had some great results and they’re pretty much firing on all cylinders. For us we know the importance of the game. They’re in our home territory. They’re very stingy defense with a very good goalie. We’re going to have to maximize our chances against them and put some balls on frame.”

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