Carroll College. Southern Oregon.
The two teams will meet on Friday as the No. 1 and No. 2 teams of the Cascade Collegiate Conference after the Saints (10-3-3 overall, 7-0-3 Cascade) scored a 1-0 win over Oregon Institute of Technology on Thursday at Nelson Stadium.
It was the Saints' first home game in three weeks, and coach Dave Thorvilson said that led to the team getting off to a slow start.
Cassidy Hammons delivered the goal in the 58th minute off an assist from freshman defender Michaela Stock. Hammons ripped a shot from about 25 yards out.
The play came after a halftime talk where Thorvilson roused his players, imploring the Saints to take their play to another level. A 0-0 draw against OIT (3-11-1, 1-6-1), which sat second to last in conference, would not be good enough.
“At halftime, we talked about needing to come out at a higher level in the second half,” Thorvilson said. “We put some fresh legs in to be able to go in at them to cause some problems and get some good looks.”
Thorvilson said he rotated several players to continue pushing the pace. One of those players was Stock, a freshman who hasn’t seen many minutes this season.
“Michaela Stock came off the bench for us and gave us a little spark and energy,” he said. “I think those little things when you’re at the end of the season can make the biggest difference.”
“She’s looked good all year long. Trying to find minutes for players on a big team when you’re senior-laden can be difficult. She’s looked good at practice. She’s done everything we’ve asked. Her overall athleticism and fitness level has her ready to go at a high pace in a game like this. There’s a lot of reasons to choose a player like her.”
Carroll’s defense and goalkeeper Jamie Carter recorded a clean sheet, the ninth of the season. Carter recorded five saves.
The Saints outshot the Owls 14-6, with eight shots on goal compared to the Owls’ five.
“The defense has already been strong for us,” Thorvilson said. “OIT’s big center back likes to swing balls in. We were trying to limit those opportunities and make it so it was a little easier for balls to fall into Jamie’s hands. They had their moments late in the game where they caused us a few problems.
“I’m pretty proud of for our midfield to step up and not allow those shots to come in.”
Thorvilson said the last week of the season is an emotional one for the players. The team is preparing for its last few home regular-season games. Eight seniors will take place in senior day on Friday, and the rest of the team will try to play its best to send the seniors out as winners and position the Saints as champions in the Cascade Conference for a second consecutive season. Sometimes, the emotion can empower a team. Other times it’s a detractor.
“Too much emotion sometimes doesn’t allow us to play as well,” Thorvilson said. “Other times you ride that emotion and try to balance it into a weekend like this. That’s what you do as a coach.”
If the Saints can balance that emotion against Southern Oregon, which currently leads the conference, and come away with a win, they have a chance to win the CCC.