Charlene Burger scored the goals.
Haley Case made some key saves.
And four defenders — Lindsay Hurley, Taylor Hallquist, Ana Delgadillo and Sarah Case — made sure the opponents had no room to breathe, very few opportunities Wednesday at Kiggins Bowl.
It was a perfect combination for the Columbia River girls soccer team in the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs.
That combination ended the reign of the Seattle Prep Panthers, the two-time defending state champions.
Columbia River (15-0-2) never trailed in this battle of programs that had won the past three state titles, earning a 2-1 victory to advance to the quarterfinals. Columbia River will travel to face Meadowdale on Saturday.
“I thought we could win. And Ana had a dream we were going to win,” Burger said.
That was enough to convince the Chieftains they could knock off a team on two-year, eight-match winning streak in the state playoffs.
Well, that and a lot of clutch plays on defense.
“We knew it was going to be a tough battle. We had to prepare ourselves,” Delgadillo said. “They’re a top-10 team. They showed up.”
The Panthers showed to within 25, 30 yards of the net often, but rarely were able to move closer.
The Columbia River offense missed on several scoring chances in the first half, but Burger quickly made up for one of her missed opportunities.
With Seattle Prep whistled for a handball in the box, Burger took the penalty kick. Prep keeper Abby Rockwell stopped the shot, but could not control the ball. Burger seized on it, and sent the ball to the back of the net on her second try for a 1-0 lead midway through the half.
“At first, I was thinking, ‘Dang it, she blocked it.’ Then I realized it was still in play,” Burger said. “It still worked out, I guess.”
The River defense was even tougher in the opening minutes of the second half. Seattle Prep’s first real shot of the half came with 21 minutes left. A few moments later, Haley Case made a big save to keep it at 1-0.
Burger gave the Chieftains some breathing room, scoring on a long shot off an assist from Emily Kleier with seven minutes remaining.
“It didn’t feel real,” Burger said. “What just happened?”
With the way the defense was playing, that 2-0 lead seemed insurmountable.
“That’s been our strength,” River coach Filomon Afenegus said. “Our back line have all been the MVPs of our team.”
Seattle Prep showed the fight of a champion, though. In desperation mode, the Panthers pulled within a goal with 2:50 remaining on a header by Adrienne Herkes.
It was the fourth goal River has given up this season, only the second that was not a penalty kick.
A minute-and-a-half later, the Panthers hit the crossbar, but the Chieftains were able to clear the ball.
“My heart skipped a beat. My stress level elevated,” Sarah Case said. “We were definitely starting to worry about it, but we knew we could pull it out.”
The playoffs, though, are what the defense has been working for all season. Up 2-0, and then 2-1, it was on the defenders to keep the match from going into overtime.
“Not much time left. You had to give it your all,” Hurley explained.
“You’re almost there,” Delgadillo recalled thinking on the field. “You can feel it, from everybody, the intensity. Keep pushing for it and don’t let your teammates down.”
Instead, the Chieftains lifted themselves up to a state playoff victory over one of the best programs in the Northwest.