CAMAS — Players come and players go, but the landscape of high school girls soccer in Southwest Washington does not seem to change.
Also consistent is the satisfaction that comes from a league championship — even when it’s a regular accomplishment for a program.
The Camas Papermakers clinched another Class 3A Greater St. Helens League title on Tuesday, beating Kelso 2-1 at Doc Harris Stadium.
By winning the Class 3A Greater St. Helens League title for the fifth time in the last seven seasons, Camas (10-3-1, 9-1-1 in league play) earned a home match for the bi-district playoffs and will play at Doc Harris Stadium on Nov. 5.
“It’s a really good feeling. We felt like we were kind of underdogs this year,” Camas co-captain Lauren Oljar said. “It was good that we could prove everybody wrong and that we could still come out on top.”
Oljar, a central midfielder, is not as quick as she was before a knee injury that forced her to miss her junior season. But her resilience is symbolic for a Camas team that lost a couple of key seniors to injury and still navigated a competitive 3A GSHL.
Janae Benson, Camas’ top forward, suffered two injuries this season, the second a knee injury that ended her high school soccer career. And goalkeeper Andrea Soderberg was sidelined by a concussion.
To fill some gaps, coach Roland Minder gave more responsibility to several sophomores, and two of them produced first-half goals five minutes apart in Tuesday’s title-clinching victory.
Both goals came on corner kicks delivered from the right wing by senior Olivia Lovell. First, defender Mackenzie Amos scored on a clean header in the 31st minute. Next was a finish by forward Rachel Gibson when another corner kick bounced free in the goal mouth.
“It’s my responsibility to get it in the right spot and it’s up to the other girls to put it away,” Lovell said.
One of only five healthy seniors on the Camas roster, Lovell said this championship is a nice way to cap her high school career, and a tribute to the hard work put in by everyone on the team.
“We knew in our hearts that we had it in us. But we knew it was going to be a lot of hard work,” Lovell said. “The question was whether we were going to put in the hard work to get it done. As we kept training through the year we knew we were going to work really hard” to reach our goals.
The league title became a little less certain early in the second half on Tuesday when Kelso’s Mickayla Mury scored from 35 yards out. But the Camas defense held strong. Camas goalkeeper Jamie Carter needed to make only two saves on the night, and the Papermakers avoided any real scare in the final half-hour, even as they couldn’t quite put away their own quality chances.
Minder said the way that younger players have stepped up to the varsity challenge is a big part of this championship story.
The coach said that younger Camas players “have taken it seriously. They want to make the seniors proud of them, and I think they really care about each other. In that sense I think they’re a special team.”
Camas, which also won the 3A title 2010, is one of at least three repeat league champions in Southwest Washington girls soccer this season.
Last week, Skyview wrapped up its sixth consecutive 4A GSHL League title.
Hockinson can run its string of 2A GSHL titles to six if it beats R. A. Long on Thursday. And Ridgefield rolled unbeaten and unchallenged to a second consecutive 1A league title this fall.