BATTLE GROUND — One bit of offensive creativity and a whole bunch of hard work on Saturday earned the Ridgefield boys soccer team a spot in the Class 2A state semifinals.
Nate Miller scored just over two minutes into the second half and goalkeeper Dalton Reis made eight saves as the Spudders beat the Bellingham Red Raiders 1-0 in a quarterfinal match played at Battle Ground District Stadium.
Ridgefield (18-3-1) advances to play Cheney in Friday's 8 p.m. state semifinal match at Sunset Chevrolet Stadium in Sumner.
The goal came when Miller got behind a defender on the right wing to receive a diagonal pass from Jared Williams. Miller dribbled deep into the penalty area and rolled a perfect right-to-left shot from a sharp angle that found the left side of the net.
"Jared played a perfect ball in through the defense," Miller said. "I saw the goalie come out, but I wasn't sure where I should put the shot. Then the far post opened up and I put it on the ground because the keep was tall."
The goal came on the third of only five shots the Spudders attempted. But it was all they needed on a victory that was about defending.
Saturday was the first time all season that Bellingham was blanked.
"I'll give Ridgefield credit," Bellingham coach Matt Zigulis said. "They definitely worked hard and made it tough for us to get opportunities on goal."
Both teams aggressively contested possession all over the field, making for a spirited and at times rugged contest.
In the first half, Bellingham took eight shots, all from outside the 18-yard box and six of which Reis had to stop.
"I knew they were a skilled team. I thought they were going to do some slotting (passes) through and runs through, which they did a little bit more in the second half," Reis said. "But I was a little surprised with all the distance shots."
Bellingham didn't get as many shots away once Ridgefield had a lead.
"Dalton (Reis) kept us solid back there," central defender Kyle Morris said. "We played pretty compact back there. They were really coming at us pretty hard in the second half. So we just did our best to hold the lead."
This is the 12th time a Ridgefield boys soccer team has reached the state tournament. The Spudders advanced to the semifinals four times previously, including last spring when they finished fourth in the Class 1A tournament. Ridgefield teams have twice played for the state title, losing to Waluke in the 2004 and 2005 Class 2A championship matches.