CAMAS — Carla Jooste feels a calm wash over her in the hectic rush after scoring a goal.
Sitting in the bleachers at Doc Harris Stadium, Jooste motions across the empty field to the goal — the same one that she scored on the night before in Camas’ district playoff game.
As she saw the ball hit the back of the net, she felt different than every goal she’d scored before. This time, she felt her late mother with her.
“I was like, whoa,” Jooste said. “That was kind of surreal for me. Every time I play, it’s like therapy. Every time I score, I feel her.”
Jooste’s mother, Lisa Jooste, died last February after a 10 year battle with colon cancer.
Carla was 8 years old when her mother was diagnosed, so most of her life she associates certain memories of her mom with midweek chemotherapy and the ups and downs that a fight with such a disease can bring about.
In Nov. 2017 she decided to stop treatment. Four months later, she died.
In the final months, as her mother became bed-ridden, she remained bubbly. Through it all, Carla said she never once heard her mother complain.
“She was a strong woman,” Carla said. “So she didn’t really want anything to take her out. So the fact that I think she made this decision to not do it anymore. I think really, like, comforted her and with her being like, ‘OK, this is fine.’ ”
Less than a year removed from her death, landmarks such as holidays, birthdays, school and soccer-related achievements become a somber reminder of her absence.
When Carla committed to play college soccer at Division II Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., (about 45 minutes north of New York City), she felt sad that her mother couldn’t be there. After all, her mother had taken her to her first visit to the campus, and was a big reason why Carla committed there.
In the weeks after her death, Carla, sister Madison and father Bruce Jooste didn’t know whether they wanted to have a service. But after a number of people — Carla estimates around 300 — reached out asking whether there would be one, they decided to put one together.
They played a slideshow, served lots of food and sweets (“she told her best friend Susie ‘when I go I don’t want anything sad … so we got lots of brownies,’ ” Carla said).
As Carla cleaned up after the ceremony, the Camas soccer team approached her — clad in Papermaker soccer gear — with flowers and hugs. Madison Jooste had posted about the service on Facebook beforehand, and members of the soccer team showed up to support their fellow teammate.
“I just felt good knowing that they supported me and helped me through that,” Carla said.
The words ‘soccer’ and ‘mom’ were always synonymous.
Lisa Jooste worked in an administrative role with the Washington Timbers soccer club (even after Carla moved to a different club) and was her team’s manager at F.C. Portland.
A native of Medford, Ore., she became the first person in her family to go to college by studying pre-med at Willamette University in Salem, Ore. Once she had her first daughter, Madison, and then Carla three years later, Lisa Jooste devoted her life to her kids.
“I think it really helped my sister and I grow up and helped form who we are as people,” Carla said.
In that time she went into remission once, and remained a steady presence in the lives of her two kids, Carla (18) and her older sister Madison Jooste (20).
Even when Carla was busy with other activities, her mom pushed her to play soccer. Going into high school, friends began to drop the sport in favor of others. Carla, also a cross country and track & field runner, considered following suit. Her mother was a steady voice, and urged her to think carefully about sticking with it.
As a sophomore, Carla played on the Camas team that won the 4A state championship. As a junior, she earned first team all-league honors in a season which the Papermakers made a return trip to the state semifinals and lost.
This season, Camas has similar aspirations.
On Wednesday, the Papermakers (16-2-0) begin that quest as they host Wesco League champ Jackson (16-1-1) in the first round of the state tournament. Throughout, Jooste has been a steady presence in the midfield and according to head coach Roland Minder, a crucial piece to the team on and off the field.
“Carla is one of my all-time favorite players,” Minder said. “Just a joy to be around. Always demonstrates a love for the game and teammates. She’s a ray of sunshine.
“I’ve never heard negative word from her. One of the hardest workers we’ve had and will take any challenge in support of the team. Most of all a great human being and a reflection on the life of her mother.”
In the weeks following her mother’s death, Minder sent Carla an email offering his condolences.
Throughout the season, Carla almost never talks about her mother, though she says teammates, as they are wont to do, will check in with her from time to time.
On senior night, before the Papermakers took on Battle Ground in the final regular season home game, each senior was honored in an age-old ceremony that includes each senior walking out with their parents and, in Camas’ case, receiving flowers and a sash.
In the locker room beforehand, Minder addressed the team.
“He said ‘thank your parents, because one of them can be there,’ ” Jooste said, “and we all started crying. I was like, ‘oh, God.’ ”
The team said a prayer for Carla’s mother. When her name was announced, she walked out with her father and sister at her side.
Fellow senior Maddie Kemp handed Carla her flowers. “These are for your mom,” Kemp told her.
As soon as she stepped onto the field, Carla could feel her mother’s presence with her. It’s what’s given her peace as she’s grieved a loss that, at 18 years old, many are not presented with.
“I think she’s always with me, as cheesy as it sounds,” Jooste said. “When I play or score, I can feel her. I know she is there guiding me.”