Papermakers, Chieftains both reach state semifinals
The quality atop the Class 3A Greater St. Helens League girls soccer was no secret in these parts when the season started.
Now, it’s understood over a much greater landscape.
Having taken their shows on the road for most of the postseason, Camas and Columbia River — the teams that finished second and third in the 3A GSHL — both found their way into the state semifinals.
“We’re definitely legit,” Camas coach Roland Minder said. “When you field two of the final four teams, and its your second- and third-place teams, it shows that if its not the toughest (league) it’s certainly one of the toughest.”
The state semifinals unfold today with the finals on Saturday at Harry Lang Stadium in Lakewood.
“I think the soccer is a testament to not only the high school league, but the club soccer here,” River coach Colleen McKinney said.
The best team in the 3A GSHL during the season — Union — lost 1-0 to Lakeside of Seattle in the first round of the state tournament.
But Camas — which claimed the state title the last time it advanced this far in 2005 — won three playoff matches by outscoring its opponents 11-0.
And River — which has advanced to soccer’s final four for the first time since 1997 — has outscored its last three foes 7-0.
Columbia River will face West Valley of Yakima in the 2 p.m. match, while Camas faces Mercer Island at 4 p.m. The winners will square off for the state title at 2 p.m. on Saturday.
The launching point for the Camas postseason run was a 2-0 loss to Columbia River on Oct. 27.
Minder said several key players had missed practice the day before that match to attend another school activity. In the aftermath of the loss, Minder said there was a discussion about the importance of practicing to prepare for each game.
A 2-1 win over league champion Union followed, and the Papermakers have outscored three playoff foes 11-0.
Inconsistent at finishing scoring chances earlier in the year, Camas has cashed in during the playoffs.
Minder said his team has executed game plans very well in the playoffs.
“I think the girls have come together as far as figuring out how to play as a team, and being in the right place” to take advantage of scoring chances, Minder said.
Also buoying the Papermakers has been the creative play of Raya Klein in midfield.
At the start of the playoffs, the junior discarded the knee brace protecting her surgically repaired knee.
The result is a quicker player with much improved lateral movement, Minder said.
Senior Eryn Brown has been in on nine of the 11 postseason goals, scoring six of them and assisting on three others.
Senior Brittney Oljar has two goals and an assist, and sophomore Olivia Lovell has two goals and two assists.
An attacking mind-set, and strong play from sophomore goalkeeper Andrea Soderberg and defenders Lauren Oljar, Annike Sumpter, Kailee Esser, and Emily Ainsworth and Hannah Foster has allowed the Papermakers to shut out all three playoff opponents.
Mercer Island, Camas’ semifinal opponent, has never won a girls soccer title. The Islanders won a pair of home state playoff matches by 2-1 scores to reach the semifinals.
Their goals in the quarterfinals came from a pair of restarts.
“I know we better not give up corner kicks,” Minder said. “They are really good at set pieces.”
For Columbia River, things started going right after a 1-0 loss to Prairie on Oct. 13 that dropped the Chieftains to 2-3 in league play.
At that point, Union was 5-0 and both Camas and Prairie were 3-1-1. River had lost to all three.
The Chieftains haven’t lost since.
McKinney said her 11 seniors began believing in each other and in some younger contributors, and the result was a confidence in the attacking third of the field that wasn’t evident at the start of the season.
Once they won a district playoff match against Prairie to qualify for the bi-district playoff round, the Chieftains embraced the road and focused on playing fun soccer.
“Preparation is about staying focused on the work you need to do, and trying to enjoy ourselves through the process,” McKinney said.
West Valley, River’s opponent, earned its semifinal spot by knocking off top-ranked Kennedy of Burine on Saturday. The Rams won a penalty-kick tiebreaker as goalkeeper Lee Hanses came up big.