Several times during Columbia River’s run to a state championship, Sarah Case and her teammates on the Chieftains girls soccer team felt under siege.
But each time an opponent was desperately throwing everything it had into the attack — including Mount Spokane’s efforts in the second half of the Class 3A state championship match — the Columbia River defense held strong.
All-Region girls soccer team
Kavita Battan, sr., Hockinson: 21 goals, 9 assists in 2012; 67 goals, 21 assists for career.
Aurora Bodenhamer, sr., Hockinson: 19 goals, 8 assists in 2012; 45 goals, 33 assists for career.
Brynne Dykes, sr., La Center: 1A GSHL offensive player of the year helped Wildcats to league title.
Bobbi Eckler, sr., Union: First-team GSHL forward/midfielder was key attacker for district champs.
Carly Estes, sr., Ridgefield: 2A GSHL defensive player of the year helped Spudders to playoffs.
Carlee Maluenda, sr., Union: Fourth-year midfielder was a quiet leader for district champions.
Carly Marshall, jr., Camas: First-team GSHL defender for a team that allowed only 3 league goals.
Nicole Mattson, sr., Evergreen: 4A GSHL offensive player of the year.
Maddie Reynolds, jr., Columbia River: 3A GSHL offensive MVP led attack for the state champions.
Lauren Rood, fr., Camas: First-team 4A GSHL GK saved 3 PKs in state quarterfinal shootout win.
Alexa Whitney, sr., Hudson's Bay: 3A all-league midfielder was Eagles' top player for four years.
In the middle of that defense, it was Case’s assertive, determined play that set the tone for a Columbia River team that went undefeated and gave up only six goals all season.
“I don’t think I’ve ever coached a player who has elevated her game as much as she did,” Columbia river coach Filomon Afenegus said. “She was always there to resucue us.”
For her role in Columbia River’s championship season, Case is The Columbian’s All-Region player of the year for girls soccer.
In the state final, an aggressive Mount Spokane team grew more assertive as the second half progressed. Case felt the pressure mounting.
“It felt like they had 10 corner kicks right in a row and we couldn’t get it out,” she said.
“I just thought: I can’t let the ball go through. I have to be as ready as I can be,” she said. “Because the few times I have messed up I knock myself for it and how I should have gotten there and should have been ready.”
Case is a 5-foot-11 senior who was easy to spot in the middle of the action. But her coach said “tenacity and leadership” made Case stand out.
“A lot of it was just putting her body on the line, putting her head in front of the ball,” Afenegus said.
“She anticipated and put herself in position she needed to be in before the ball got there.”
Case credits Afenegus for cultivating the grit and confidence that carried the Chieftains to the ultimate prize in high school soccer.
“How do you tell if gold is real gold? You put it through the fire,” Case said, repeating one of her favorite Afenegus sayings. “He put us through the fire, and our opponents put us through the fire, and we persevered.”
And for Case and the Chieftains, the final result was indeed golden.
• Sarah was a central figure for a Columbia River defense that was scored on only six times all season, the foundation of the Chieftains' undefeated season and state-title run.
• Was the Class 3A Greater St. Helens League's defensive player of the year.
• River coach Biniam Afenegus said Case "would go through, around, over the top of players just to get to the ball."
More about Sarah
• Sarah and her sister Haley, the River goalkeeper, have played eight years with the same club soccer team (now with Pacific FC) .
• Favorite subject: biology. She credits teacher Kelly Cameron for sparking her interest. "I want to go into the sciences, possibly pre-med."
• Favorite book: "Life of Pi" by Yann Martel. The movie was pretty good, too, Sarah said.
• Favorite movie: "Up!" Sarah has watched it six or seven times.
Next year and beyond
• Sarah is considering college options, but she wants to keep playing soccer -- either at a small college or on a club team at a large university.
"A big part of soccer is dedication. If you put a lot into something you can get a lot out of it -- this year is a good example."
Sarah Case, Explaining how soccer teaches life lessons