Tigers stay hot despite cool temperatues against Junction City
La Grande’s Erin Bodfish tries to take a shot during the second half against the Mustangs. (PAUL HARDER/The Observer)
Most people looking out the window from the warmth of their homes wouldn’t have thought it was a great day for soccer. Sure, the temperature was in the upper 30’s with snow flurries throughout the game, but, for senior Jasmine Smith and her La Grande soccer teammates, it wasn’t so bad.
“It didn’t bother us,” Smith said. “We’ve been practicing in it all week long.”
For visiting Junction City, it sounded like the weather was more of a problem.
“We talked to the captains before the game,” Smith said. “They said it never snows around them. They didn’t look comfortable, and I think we used that to our advantage.”
Snow flurries came and went throughout the 90-minute contest, as did a flurries of goals by the Tigers during their 6-1 Class 4A state tournament win.
It took a while for La Grande to break the ice before finally getting on board.
The Tigers finally broke through following an Avery Stanton shot attempt. The junior’s shot was right on target, but the Junction City goalkeeper, Taylee Pratt, couldn’t quite corral the shot. After the ball caromed off Pratt’s body, Erin Bodfish put the ball in the back of the net.
“It’s always nice to get the first goal in there,” Smith said. “We were able to breath a little bit and play our game a little bit more.”
However, the gameplan was different than usual due to the weather. La Grande likes to posses the ball in the backfield, and find an opening from there. Tigers head coach Sam Brown said they had to change that.
“We didn’t want to stick with our usual plan of attack,” Brown said. “The field was a little sloppy, so we didn’t want the ball in our end as much as we usually do. You just don’t know what might happen. So, we told the girls if they get the ball, to send it up as much as they can.”
The strategy paid off.
With the midfielders playing up, it put more players in scoring range.
Sophomore Clara Gandy connected on a goal from 25-yards out. Her shot went high, and slipped through the goalkeeper’s hands and into the back of the net.
“That was one of the things we talked about before the game,” Smith said. “We wanted to aim high. It’s tough for any keeper to reach up and try to catch a slick ball.”
Smith also followed that advice, scoring her first goal of the match, giving La Grande a 3-0 lead headed into halftime. The three first half goals were scored in a span of eight minutes.
That fire that the Tigers had after Bodfish’s first goal didn’t appear early in the second half.
“I think the cold played a factor,” Smith said. “We were too comfortable with the score, and just didn’t bring the same intensity that we should have. It’s a good learning experience. You never know what could happen in a match, so we can’t let that happen again.”
Smith tacked on a pair of goals in the second half for a hat trick.
Junction City got on the board off a header by McKenna Straube on an indirect kick.
Lexus Miller-Moylan scored La Grande’s final goal just before the end of the game.
“It would have been nice to get a shutout,’ Brown said. “But I thought we played really well. We used the conditions to our advantage. That’s what I tried to get the girls to understand. We can’t change the weather.”
La Grande will have the home field advantage in the the second round, when Brookings Harbor comes to town Saturday. Gametime is set for 1 p.m.
Brookings beat Henley on penalty kicks 2-1 Tuesday.