Columbia River girls soccer coach Filly Afenegus, like many coaches, often preach to their athletes it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
Not only can that be said for its 1-0 victory over Olympic of Bremerton to win its Class 2A first-round state playoff game Wednesday, but an echoing statement for how River’s season has gone.
From a team that had four losses in first 11 games, River’s now on a season-best six-game winning streak entering Saturday’s state quarterfinal hosting Fife at Kiggins Bowl.
“We’re playing good,” senior goalkeeper Alex Schulz said, “but we can do better. We need to meet our ceiling and go through it.”
Shalece Easley’s goal in the eighth minute Wednesday gave River (13-5-1) the lead for good, and its defense held off a feisty Trojans team to advance to the quarterfinals. The Chieftains host a Fife team that bested Archbishop Murphy, 2-1, in its first-round win Tuesday. Game time for Saturday’s quarterfinal will be determined Thursday.
Wednesday, the Chieftains held off an aggressive Olympic (15-5) team that features three with season goal totals in the double digits.
That led to a number of chances for Olympic to find the back of the net. Back-to-back first-half shots off headers were denied by the River defense as was perhaps Olympic’s best second-half chance to net a goal. Leading goal scorer Hanna Troy (23 season goals) blasted a shot from 30 yards out only to be saved by Schulz, River’s second-half goalkeeper, leaping to her right to make one of her two saves in the 63rd minute.
Chieftain players said by no means was Wednesday its best-played game, but feel they’re finding their groove at the right time.
That’s because at one stretch this season, River sat 6-4-1 through 11 games and at its worst, fourth place in the 2A Greater St. Helens League entering the final week of league play.
That’s far in the rear-view mirror now. River is one of eight 2A teams left in the playoffs.
“We never lost hope in the vision,” sophomore midfielder Yaneisy Rodriguez said. … “We had several kinks that had to be altered and in the end it was everyone coming together. We worked out the kinks for each other.”
That’s all in the past. River’s a winner of fourth straight games and Wednesday was the defense’s fourth straight shutout and fifth in seven games.
Communication’s been a big part of that, the Chieftains say, as the season’s progressed. It made a difference, too, Wednesday securing its sixth straight win and more importantly, reaching its third consecutive state quarterfinal.
“Everyone knows we’re on the same page,” Rodriguez said, “and there’s less little mistakes.”
COLUMBIA RIVER 1, OLYMPIC 0
Goals (assists) — Shalece Easley. Goalkeeper saves — Liz Canton 1, Alex Schulz 2.
Halftime — River, 1-0.