PUYALLUP — Even when the Liberty Patriots were monopolizing possession, enjoying their one-goal lead in Friday’s Class 3A girls soccer semifinals and frustrating Columbia River, Chieftains coach Filomon Afenegus knew his team wasn’t finished.
His Chieftains proved him right with a bit of magic from forward Maddie Reynolds, a big stop from goalkeeper Haley Case, and a pinch of the good fortune that championship soccer teams seem to find.
By winning a penalty-kick tiebreaker over Liberty of Issaquah, Columbia River earned the right to play on Saturday for its second state title in four seasons.
Columbia River will face Mt. Spokane, a 2-0 winner over Holy Names.
“One thing to be said about our girls, even sometimes when we get outplayed we have a team full of fighters,” Afenegus said. “They never give up and they are very resilient.”
The Chieftains (18-0-2) needed all of their gumption to survive and advance against a Patriots team that scored an early goal and controlled the ball for significant stretches of the match.
The win was clinched when Mari Chopp converted her seventh-round penalty kick, giving River a 5-4 advantage in the tiebreaker after the team’s battled to a 1-1 draw through 90 minutes.
Charlene Burger, Emily Heaton, Emily Kleier and Ana Delgadillo also converted for River during the shootout. But it was a diving save by goalkeeper Case that kept the Chieftains alive when Liberty’s fifth PK had a chance to clinch it for the Patriots (14-4-1).
Haley Case dove to her left to block the shot from Kiana Hafferty, starting a string of four consecutive missed shots between the teams that ended with Chopp’s winner.
River had its tiebreaker shot because of a bolt of lightning from Reynolds with just more than 10 minutes left in the match.
With Liberty owning much of the possession, it was a long clearing ball that started the scoring play. Reynolds was able to split a pair of defenders and get to a bouncing ball with plenty of space to score from just inside the 18-yard box.
“I got behind (the defense),” Reynolds said. “They were paying attention to who was flicking the ball forward and I ran right on to it.”
Running the ball down was the easy part. Flicking the ball beyond the reach of the charging goalkeeper without missing the target took real concentration.
“I just said to myself: ‘I’ve got to get a good touch on this,’ ” Reynolds said.
The River defense has now allowed five goals through 20 matches this season. The one Liberty scored in the 26th minute on Friday was a bit of a surprise to the Chieftains.
Tara Johnson had enough time in front of goal to whip a right-footed half-volley into the net. The play started with a right-wing throw-in by Katie Noonan that bounced past several players to find Johnson 10 yards in front of goal.
Afenegus said the scouting information he had picked up did not indicate Liberty had a player capable of long throw-ins. His defense adjusted to that after falling behind, and hoped for the one chance to even the score.
“They were a very, very good team in terms of possession,” Afenegus said. “But we always had hope because our forwards were faster than their back line. All it took was one ball over the top to get a goal.”
That, and some poise under penalty-kick pressure. Afenegus said his team was practiced penalty kicks at every practice for several weeks.
“Something that you can’t practice though is your ability to hold your nerve under pressure,” the coach said. “I’m very impressed with the way the girls were able to do that today.”
COLUMBIA RIVER 2, LIBERTY 1 (SO)
Columbia River (18-0-2)
Goal — Maddie Reynolds (unassisted), 69th minute. Goalkeeper saves — Haley Case 1.
Goal (assist) — Tara Johnson (Katie Noonan), 26th minute. Goalkeeper saves — Amy Ellenberg 3.
Halftime — Liberty 1-0. Fulltime — 1-1 tie. Overtime — 1-1.
Shootout — Columbia River 5, Liberty 4 (7 rounds). CR goals: Charlene Burger, Emily Heaton, Emily Kleier and Ana Delgadillo, Mari Chopp; CR saves: Haley Case 1. Liberty goals: Kailiana Johnson, Leah Grefthen, Taylor Sekyra, Jacquelyn Anderson; Liberty saves: Ellenberg 1.