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News / Sports / Prep Sports

Columbia River blanks Bellingham in 2A state girls soccer playoff opener

Ivy Henderson scores goal early in first half, Rapids defense stands tall

By Will Denner, Columbian staff writer
Published: November 9, 2022, 9:38pm
6 Photos
Columbia River's Ivy Henderson, center, tries to weave in between Bellingham defenders Genevieve Blum, left, and Katura Curtis, right, in a 2A state playoff match Wednesday.
Columbia River's Ivy Henderson, center, tries to weave in between Bellingham defenders Genevieve Blum, left, and Katura Curtis, right, in a 2A state playoff match Wednesday. (Will Denner/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

The longer Columbia River’s season lasts, the more memories the team will make.

And from the looks of the Rapids’ first round Class 2A state playoff soccer game on Wednesday, they have plenty more left to add.

The No. 6 seed Rapids earned a 1-0 win over No. 11 Bellingham at John O’Rourke Field after going ahead within the first five minutes on Ivy Henderson’s goal assisted by Avah Eslinger.

“We just keep on wanting to extend our journey with the seniors that we have and the team we have, we want to create many more memories,” said Eslinger, a junior. “I think that was in the back of all our heads.”

With No. 3 West Valley of Spokane also claiming a 3-1 win over Selah, River will travel to eastern Washington on Saturday to face the Eagles in the quarterfinals with the winner moving on to the state final four.

River finished third at last season’s final four and won the 2A state title in 2019, when the Rapids’ current seniors were freshmen.

For them, the win-or-go-home stakes of the state playoffs are a driving force behind their play.

“It’s definitely nerve-wracking, but we’re always going to keep pushing, we’re never going to stop,” senior Logann Dukes said, “because, let’s be honest, for some of us this is our last chance.”

Dukes was part of a shutdown defensive effort that drew rave reviews from coaches and players after the game.

Despite leading for all but a few brief moments of the 80-minute game, River was steadily challenged by Bellingham’s attack. But for every spot the Bayhawks tried to challenge on the field, the Rapids’ back line, center backs Logann Dukes and Ava Lapinskas, plus outside backs Meilynn Smith and Peyton Dukes, shifted with confidence. They headed out and cleared three Bellingham corner kicks in the second half. And, goalkeeper Alia Rust made a pair of diving saves.

“I feel like our back line might be one of the closest units together on the team,” Logann Dukes said. “I just felt comfortable knowing that I have an amazing center back, Ava, next to me, and outside backs that are just so incredibly talented. We just push each other to be better and I just feel more confident to make it happen.”

For River head coach Filly Afenegus, their consistency stood out most.

“It is so hard to consistently shift, to consistently head the ball and doing those things repetitively, over and over,” Afenegus said. “For them to consistently do it for the entire game, especially when that ball doesn’t feel the greatest (and) it’s frozen by the end of the night, it speaks volumes to how that back four has really meshed together.”

Now the Rapids look ahead to Saturday’s game against West Valley and a long road trip to Spokane, where temperatures are projected to stay below 40 degrees the rest of the week.

With their playoff track record, it’s the type of test the Rapids are equipped to handle better than most. It’s also a chance to add some memories in a season that started in August.

“Two days recovery is going to be challenging, playing in the cold is going to be challenging enough, but we’ve been talking about mental toughness all year long,” Afenegus said.

“I’ve been challenging this group: ‘Every win that you guys get, you get the opportunity to create more memories with each other.’ That’s been the biggest driving force. This group’s going to crush it. I think they’re going to do a great job handling the adversity. They’ve handled it all year long.”