No style points were won by the Columbia River girls soccer team Wednesday. The Chieftains can agree on that with their performance to open the Class 2A state playoffs.
What they also agree on is in their quest to defend their Class 2A girls soccer state title, which began with a 2-1 hard-earned win over Clarkston to open the state playoffs: the smallest of margins can make the biggest differences, but so can the biggest plays.
“Playoff soccer is a different form of soccer,” said senior Sophie Landers, the 2A Greater St. Helens League defensive player of the year.
Rivers’ defense allowed its first goal since Oct. 10 when, with a 1-0 lead minutes into the second half, Mckinzie Packwood’s shot for Clarkston slipped through River’s back line and ricocheted past goalkeeper Liz Canton that tied the game in the 47th minute.
Before that goal allowed, River posted eight consecutive shutouts; its last goal allowed was in a 1-1 tie to 4A Battle Ground
Fortunately for River, the opportunity to regain the lead came just 4 minutes later when a foul by Packwood in the box gave Yaneisy Rodriguez a penalty-kick shot. She drilled it inside the left post for the eventual game-winning goal.
Columbia River (17-2-1) had three of its corners in the first half, and converted on its first.
Sophia Skimas drilled it home for a 1-0 lead in the 16th minute. Success off set pieces continues to be one of the Chieftains’ strength and as the playoff road continues with tougher opponents, opportunities in the open field may becomes fewer.
“We’re always not going to get those chances, and that’s going to win these games,” Landers said.
Wednesday’s victory sets up a state quarterfinal showdown with Bellingham, a 1-0 winner over Olympic, back at Kiggins Bowl on Saturday.
That game likely will have an afternoon start time; a game time was not finalized Wednesday night.
River coach Filly Afenegus said the Bantams (11-5-1) out of the Great Northern League presented different challenges from 2A GSHL teams, such as a different formation, making them a tougher-than-expected first-round opponent.
And that’s why he expressed to his players afterward the intensity moving forward in the state playoffs will increase from here.
“Hopefully, more than one more (game),” he said.