SHORELINE — A long wait is finally over for the Hockinson girls soccer team.
Two years after the Hawks made an appearance in the Class 2A girls soccer state championship game, eventually falling to Greater St. Helens League foe Columbia River, the Hawks gave themselves another chance to capture a title by defeating another familiar face Friday at Shoreline Stadium.
Hockinson topped Ridgefield 1-0 in the semifinal round, taking the lead in the 16th minute from a Rayelle Stephens unassisted goal after Stephens collected her initial shot, which was saved by Ridgefield, and put the second one in the back of the net.
Ridgefield (17-4), which hadn’t surrendered a goal in five straight games between districts and the state playoffs, was unable to get the equalizing goal past keeper Amanda Jeschke and the Hockinson defense.
“It’s a crazy feeling, kind of déjà vu from sophomore year when we played (Ridgefield) in the semifinals,” Stephens said. “It was so awesome to be out there with all my best friends, to celebrate after we scored and after we won the game. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
The script was similar to 2019, the last time the WIAA held a statewide playoff bracket, when Hockinson defeated Ridgefield to reach the state championship. But for the Hawks (16-6) freshmen and sophomores on that 2019 team, now upperclassmen, a return to state would have to wait quite a bit longer than they thought.
Perhaps no one was more eager to return than Jeschke. The senior keeper dealt with a prolonged absence for much of the season after suffering a broken pinkie just three games into the season. Friday marked her official return to play.
Sophomore Ashley Suva filled in admirably for Jeschke, leading the Hawks through the first two rounds of the playoffs, but broke her jaw last Saturday in the quarterfinal round against Burlington-Edison.
“You know, I’ve been out for a really, really long time,” Jeschke said. “I got to give credit to my team, and I really got to give credit to Ashley Suva … She came in and she got us here. I’m here to finish it off for her.”
Jeschke was cleared to return after that quarterfinal game. Starting Monday, Jeschke had all of a few days to train and get ready for game for the final four matchup against Ridgefield. Jeschke was tested early with a shot on goal from Ridgefield’s Ellie Petersen and a Kelli Krusl cross into the box, both of which the goalkeeper grabbed.
“It’s so indescribable,” Jeschke said. “The first game back, we’re warming up, I’m jittery … the adrenaline is high and I thought it would fizzle out toward the end, but it was there through the whole game. I still have adrenaline. I’m ready for tomorrow now.”
Trailing by one goal into the second half, Ridgefield’s best chances to score came via free kick after a string of Hockinson fouls. The Spudders’ final attempt, a straight on kick taken by Claire Jones, was intercepted by Jeschke before Ridgefield was able to get a touch on it.
“It’s a long season and we’ve fought each other hard,” Ridgefield head coach Jeff Lukowiak said. “We’ve taken them by one goal twice, so we knew had to fight hard.”