SHORELINE — Columbia River’s often relied upon defense faced something it couldn’t contain on Saturday night.
The defense that has held firm in the Chieftains’ run to the 2A state title girls soccer match ran into a Liberty offense that had scored 14 goals in three state playoff games before the title matchup.
And it was overwhelmed.
A year after Columbia River hoisted the state championship trophy after defeating Liberty in a shootout, the Chieftains’ hopes to repeat as 2A state champion fell short on Saturday in a 3-0 loss to Liberty of Issaquah at Shoreline Stadium.
For a program that returned to the state championship game despite losing the majority of its scoring from last season, there was plenty of reason to hold heads high.
“It makes us look back and think of all the memories,” freshman defender Lucy Ianello said. “I think everyone was crying because we were sad that we were done bonding, and we don’t have any more opportunities to do that.”
As Liberty celebrated moments after the final whistle, the Chieftains, who won two postseason games in penalty kicks, met in the center of the field. And in the most bitter result of the season, the team embraced as a whole — then individually — to celebrate their accomplishments.
“This game doesn’t define our season,” Katie Colson said. “This the most special team I’ve ever been a part of and I’m so proud of us. … I can’t dwell on the fact that we lost it in the end.”
Sophomore Shalece Easley said: “Most of our tears are because of the bonds and connections we made as a team throughout the season. Just seeing that go away in a really sad way is hard.”
After they received the second-place trophy, River coach Filomon Afenegus corralled the eight seniors and thanked them for their leadership. When he thinks about the seniors, he sees the legacy that they will have left, and the example they set for the underclassmen.
“It’s started with them,” he said. “And it’s trickled down throughout the program. It’s been a really, really special year.”
Trailing and tired from a trying regulation and two overtime periods on Friday night (Liberty’s starters rested much of the second half in its semifinal blowout), the Chieftains subbed early and often.
And while fresh legs might not have ultimately stopped the Patriots’ potent offense, which returned many of its top players from last year, it certainly didn’t help.
“We just got tired, I just think getting one was a little tough,” Ianello said.
Makena Carr finished with two goals for Liberty — both in the first half. Her first came off a header from a cross by Chloe Winn from the right sideline.
Carr scored again in the 23rd minute on a blocked shot by Alex Schulz rebounded out to her feet. Nikayla Copenhaver sealed the deal in the 56th minute when she got two defenders lunging to her right, pulled the ball back and sent it past Schulz to go up 3-0.
“We started off very sluggish, they started off with that speed and they were able to catch us a little bit with those two goals,” Afenegus said.
Schulz finished with six saves on the night.
When the final whistle sounded and the Chieftains tearfully collected their trophy, the feeling of sadness was rooted in the positive bonding moments this season.
“Second out of 64 teams is amazing,” Ianello said. “I’m proud of everyone.”
LIBERTY 3, COLUMBIA RIVER 0
Goals (assists) — Makena Carr (Chloe Winn), Carr (unassisted), Nikayla Copenhaver (unassisted); Goalkeeper saves — Sophie Mendoza 1, Taylor Thatcher 0.
Goalkeeper saves — Alex Schulz 6, Liz Canton 0.
Halftime — Liberty, 2-0.