CAMAS — The speed of the Camas boys soccer team threatened to quickly finish off Sammamish on Saturday in the quarterfinals of the Class 3A state tournament.
The strength and determination of the visiting Totems threatened to erase a Papermaker advantage late in the match at Doc Harris Stadium.
The difference was Camas’ ability to put away two of its many scoring chances, as the Papermakers earned a return trip to the state semifinals with a 2-0 victory.
Defender Wyatt Brown scored in the first half and freshman forward Nathan Beasley tallied in the second half for Camas, which improved to 18-1 with its 12th shutout of the season.
Camas advances to the semifinals for the seventh time, and fifth time in the last six seasons. The Papermakers will play Southridge of Kennewick at 4 p.m. on Friday at Harry Lang Stadium in Lakewood.
The home team had opportunities to make quick work of the Totems in Saturday’s quarterfinal. In the first five minutes, Beasley had two scoring chances and seniors Chris Miller and Drew White each had one.
“The last two games we got a lot of chances. We need to finish them, for sure,” said senior midfielder Parker Roland, who assisted on the game’s first goal. “As we go on, the teams will get better and we’ll probably get fewer chances.”
On Saturday, Camas scored on its sixth legitimate chance, with defender Wyatt Brown beating Ellsworth inside the right post from 12 yards after some calm footwork by Roland at the top of the penalty area created the chance.
“Wyatt got through a couple of guys, saw me open and got me the ball, continued on his run and I played it back to him,” Roland said. “He fought a guy shoulder to shoulder and just hit it low to the corner.”
It was a pretty play.
“There’s nothing you can improve on that one,” Camas coach Roland Minder said.
Sammamish knew coming into the match that Camas’ speed would cause problems, and it certainly did early.
“We geared for it. We told them it’s nothing like we’ve seen in any game we’ve had this year,” Sammamish coach Darryl Gonyea said. “They just attack from everywhere. They’re strong everywhere. They’re fast, quick. As much as you try to prepare for it, you aren’t really prepared for it until you see it.”
For Camas, the challenge was dealing with a strong, physical team of Totems, led by co-captain Nick Rooney, who played in back for the first half and up front in the second.
“In terms of physicality, they were the biggest team we’ve played this year,” Minder said.
Rough, physical play is expected in the playoffs, several Papermakers said.
“It was fun,” Camas goalkeeper Zach Anderson said. “It was one of the more physical games. But that’s what you have to look forward to in the playoffs.”
When Beasley scored off a take-away in the 51st minute, Camas led 2-0 and looked ready to march forward to the semifinals. But Sammamish (14-2-1) didn’t go quietly.
Over the next 20 minutes they created five quality scoring chances, including two apiece for Austin Allison and Taylor Berg.
But Anderson came up with three of his five saves in goal in that stretch, and Papermaker defenders Michael Dyra and Adam Allison each cleared a ball off the goal line.
“You don’t make it this far without a good keeper,” Minder said. “You ask a keeper to do all the routine things, plus make two or three really big saves and he already comes through.”
Anderson said he probably owes Allison and Dyra a meal, or at least a treat.
“They had the breaks and we didn’t,” Sammamish coach Gonyea said. “And they capitalized on them. All the praise to them. “We could probably play another two hours today and not score. That’s the way soccer is sometimes.”
A year ago, Camas thought it had cleared the most challenging hurdle when the Papermakers beat top-ranked Shorecrest in the state quarterfinals. They lost in the semifinals to Mount Rainier.
“We talk about it everyday,” Minder said of last season’s semifinal letdown. “We need to talk about it for those who are new to the team, and they’re a lot of them. The ones who were there last year, they know it.”
A big reason the Papermakers are back in the semifinals is a midfield ruled by three seniors and a rebuilt backline that has become rock-solid.
In the midfield, Roland, Drew Gourlie and Chris Miller have played together since age 10.
“Our intensity is high,” Roland said. “Everyone’s stepped up and worked for each other. We have great team chemistry in the middle.”
The same can be said for the back four. Brown, a junior, and freshman Matt Palodichuk man the middle, flanked by Dyra on the left and Michael Koceja on the right.
“In the preseason, it took a lot of practice time and a lot of yelling at them, getting them positioned,” said the senior goalkeeper Anderson. “Now they understand their positions and we’re able to incorporate different guys. They transition smoothly, they cover for each other, and they get the ball out safely.”
That kind of consistently solid work has the Papermakers back in the state semifinals — a place Camas teams have made a habit of visiting.