HOCKINSON — Seldom does an early season league game feel like it has major postseason implications, but every point counts in the 2A Greater St. Helens League.
Those implications were not lost on the Hockinson girls soccer team, which lost at districts last season, when it hosted defending 2A state champion Columbia River. River, Hockinson and Ridgefield are all tied for first in the league standings.
“These guys had been looking forward to this game in particular for 340-some days, since the end of last year,” Hockinson coach Joe Chicks said.
Hockinson completed a come-from-behind 2-1 win over Columbia River on Tuesday evening, a game that came down to the waning moments.
The Hawks (3-0-2, 3-0 2A GSHL) put the pressure on the Chieftains early. River (3-2, 1-1) only entered the attacking third a handful of times, and Hockinson kept the pressure through much of the first half.
That quickly changed after halftime. River came out strong, and it paid off with sophomore Shalece Easley’s goal in the half’s opening minutes.
That woke up the Hawks.
“I knew we kind of hung our heads on that one,” Hockinson goalkeeper Jenna Talarico said, “but right as that kick went off we knew it was time to give it back.”
Minutes later, senior Jennifer Baertlein’s shot was blocked by a defender out of bounds for a corner. Baertlein got the ball back off the corner and scored to even the game at 1-1.
“It definitely makes the game intense once they scored,” Baertlein said. “It’s just kind of that extra push you need.”
River kept the foot on the gas.
Easley broke free down the right side of the box, but her shots were blocked back-to-back by Talarico. That set up senior Kayla Sills to pound in the go-ahead on the other end and give Hockinson the lead it did not relinquish.
But as the game persisted, the game became more tense and the Chieftains kept the pressure up — all the way up to the final whistle.
Talarico delivered two key saves — first one-handed and the second a sliding effort — to keep the Chieftains at bay.
When a Hockinson defender checked River forward Ava Greer to the ground just outside the box deep into stoppage time, Talarico was nervous it’d be a penalty kick.
“I made sure and held the ball until I knew, because I was a little freaked out,” said Talarico, who had a game-high 12 saves. “We had everyone marked. It was nerve-racking, but you just have to keep your head in those situations.”
A free kick was awarded just outside the box, and the shot went past the outstretched Talarico, but hit the crossbar. It was the last of a handful of clutch saves by the senior.
“Fantastic,” Chicks said of Talarico’s performance. “She’s been worked. Jenna’s had to work for everything she’s got.”
The teams will rematch on Oct. 12 at Columbia River. River beat Hockinson the second time around last season. The Hawks haven’t forgotten.
“This year we’re a little more prepared and a little more focused,” Talarico said. “We all have the same common goal of getting better each game instead of leveling off.”
“Every point counts,” Sills said.