CAMAS — Sure, soccer is a team effort. Of course the Camas defenders stood strong on Saturday, and the Papermaker midfielders covered a lot of ground.
But Camas is going to the Class 4A girls soccer semifinals because of one player.
Freshman goalkeeper Lauren Rood made one great save in the first half, then stopped three Mead tries in the penalty-kick tiebreaker to lift the Papermakers to the 1-0 victory at Doc Harris Stadium.
"It was amazing. I can't even describe (Rood) right now," senior team captain Jamie Carter said after Rood's diving stops turned away the visitors from Spokane and propelled the Papermakers to the final four next Friday and Saturday in Puyallup.
"I just don't let myself panic," Rood said.
Indeed, the freshman played with the poise of a veteran. Rood is new to high school, but not to playoff tiebreakers. She said she has gone 2-2 in similar tie-breakers as the goalkeeper for her Columbia Timbers Red team.
And she had a plan.
"I was reading the players' hips," Rood said. "When a player shoots, they shoot in the direction their hips are facing, so I just watch their hips at the last minute and I go the direction they are facing."
The most significant of her three shootout stops might have been the first. Mead keeper Ashley Juul opened the tiebreaker with a diving stop on a shot by Camas' Carly Marshall. Rood answered with a diving stop to deny Mead's Kylie Drynan.
"That was a huge save for me," Rood said. "I had to come out and match their keeper's great first save, and luckily I was able to do that."
Mead probably felt unlucky to be in such a spot. Twice in the first half, the Panthers' Anna Kessler came within inches from scoring. In the 15th minute, Kessler took a shot from in front off a corner kick that the Camas defense managed to clear from the goal mouth.
And in the 38th minute, Rood's acrobatics kept the game scoreless. A Kessler shot from 12 yards to the left of goal appeared headed under the cross bar until Rood's paw pushed it over the top.
"I had a full body extension over my right arm," Rood said. "It was just a reaction. I didn't have to think about it with all of the adrenaline running through my body."
Mead outshot Camas 15-6, including 6-3 in shots on goal. The Papermakers misfired on a couple of decent chances in the first 10 minutes, and had two quality chances in the second half when Camas' fitness began to show. The best of those was a 25-yard shot by Emily Ponce that hit the crossbar.
For long stretches, this quarterfinal match was more a test of wills than of skills. Neither team was able to string together more than a couple of passes.
Camas coach Roland Minder said his team persevered, as it has throughout a season marked by the loss of four starters to season-ending injuries.
"It's a good thing Minder kept us fit," said Carter, who played a defensive midfield position in front of a back four featuring Anyssa Devera, Rachel Gibson. Marshall and Hailey Rose. "Basically we kept them in front of us and when they tried to turn on us, that's when we would take the ball from them."
Camas had Union in front of it during most of the 4A Greater St. Helens League season. The Titans won the district, but drew defending champion Skyline in the first round of state and fell 2-1 on Wednesday. The Papermakers have won twice since losing to Union for the district title and will represent the GSHL at the final four.
"Union, they are an amazing soccer team," Rood said. "We just got lucky with the bracket we were put in, but I'm very roud of our team. We came together as a family and we worked for it."