SHORELINE — It was decidedly on-brand for Columbia River.
Some 80 physical, grueling yet scoreless minutes of regulation and six of additional overtime went by, but after a season full of one-goal wins, extra time and penalty kicks, the Chieftains are no strangers to grinding out close games.
Yaneisy Rodriguez scored off a deflection in the opening minutes of the second overtime period to lift River over White River of Buckley 1-0 in the 2A state semifinals at Shoreline Stadium on Friday night.
And it’s as if the Chieftains wrote the script themselves.
“This sums up our year, our season,” River coach Filly Afenegus said. “We don’t do it the easy way. It’s the same script every time.”
Not without a little stress, but the result punched a return ticket to a game the Chieftains won exactly a year ago.
This means Columbia River is through to the state finals, which is a quick turnaround to a Saturday matchup against Liberty of Renton at 4 p.m.
“It’s a pattern we always work on. (Rodriguez) got in behind and was able to squeeze it in,” Afenegus said.
When Rodriguez saw forward Shalece Easley flick the ball on, she thought, “this is my chance.”
When Rodriguez’s goal rolled past the goalkeeper just inside the left post and past the goal line, she turned around to celebrate. Freshman Reggie Griffith was directly behind her, and realized that most of the team didn’t immediately recognize that it was the golden goal, and the game was over.
“At first, I thought, ‘What just happened?’ ” Griffith said.
“It was an amazing feeling,” Rodriguez said.
The team flooded the field in celebration — another thing they’ve gotten good at this postseason — and players embraced in smiles and some in tears. But
Goalkeeper Alex Schulz returned after missing the quarterfinal game with pneumonia and delivered six saves and a key shutout.
Scoring has been a struggle at times for the Chieftains, but their defense has backed them up all season. All six games in the postseason have been decided by one goal — two of those culminated in penalty kicks.
River saw its share of opportunities in the evenly-contested match. It outshot White River by three shots in the end. The two teams were tied at halftime, but the game saw a big moment of change five minutes into the second half.
White River’s Kinlee Hofstrom elbowed Griffith in the face while lunging to a tackle, sending the freshman to the ground with a bloody nose. The referee sent Hofstrom off with a straight red card, and White River played the remainder with one fewer player.
“It really opened things up for us,” Rodriguez said.
That limited its opportunities in the attack. Griffith, after exiting the game in a daze, stopped the bleeding by plugging her nose with gauze, and subbed back in five minutes later.
River’s opponent in the finals, Liberty, had no trouble scoring in 6-2 win over West Valley of Spokane in the semifinals at the same venue prior to the Chieftains’ game. The quick turnaround will undoubtedly test River’s depth, and likely result in Afenegus looking for contributions and minutes from the entire bench.
If there’s one thing the team has learned from Afenegus, according to Rodriguez, it’s that the postgame cheers need to be short-lived.
Especially when there’s a state final game less than 24 hours later.
“A wise man one told me,” she said, referring to Afenegus, “celebrate rarely, grind often”