SHORELINE — The seniors of the Columbia River girls soccer team ended their careers on Saturday just like they started as freshmen in 2019: celebrating with a state championship trophy in their arms and further reinforcing their status as one of the top programs in Washington.
Fittingly, in the Rapids’ 1-0 win over Sehome in the Class 2A state championship game, it was a pair of seniors who delivered the game-changing, clutch play to help secure the program’s fifth state title.
Following more than 70 scoreless minutes, River’s Lillian Mickel took a throw-in and Logann Dukes lobbed a pass from near midfield into a crowd of players just outside of Sehome’s box. Two high bounces of the ball put the Mariners defense on its heels.
Out of the crowd emerged River’s Andie Buckley, charging in between Sehome defenders before firing a close-range shot into the back of the net.
“Andie is the coolest, calmest player I think I’ve ever coached,” River head coach Filly Afenegus said. “In those moments, you really have to just be composed enough to let the ball come down, settle and hit it at the right time. … It just kind of summarized who she is, she’s just so cool, calm and collected in all pressure situations.”
Buckley added: “The whole game we knew we just needed to find one moment, the ball bouncing, and that’s the right moment to attack. I wasn’t really thinking, I just knew I had to get a shot off.”
The Rapids (20-3-1) survived seven more minutes, including a threatening attack from Sehome’s star forward Evelyn Keay saved by River senior keeper Alia Rust, plus stoppage time without giving up a goal.
At the final whistle, the Rapids stormed the pitch at Shoreline Stadium and clinched the perfect send-off for its class of seniors.
But as Afenegus likes to say, the freshmen on that 2019 state-championship team — Dukes, Buckley and Amelie Miller — were passengers on the bus. This time, they and the rest of the team’s nine seniors were driving it to the finish line.
“Coming back and winning state our senior year, it just meant everything to the program,” Dukes said through teary eyes after the game. “For us seniors, it was really just the moment of coming home.”
“We were passengers, but this year as drivers is such a different feeling,” Buckley added.
Sehome (19-3-1) came into the state championship game boasting one of the best offenses in the state led by Keay that outscored opponents 11-1 in three prior playoff games, including a 2-0 win over Enumclaw in Friday’s state semifinal.
The Rapids were more than up to the challenge. The coaching staff made a key adjustment around the 20-minute mark, switching to a diamond formation in the midfield to give the team better numbers and take some pressure off of the Rapids’ back line.
“We were having a hard time, and they made the adjustment perfectly,” Afenegus said. “They did an amazing job hanging in there in those tough moments.”
And once again, the Rapids’ back line of seniors Meilynn Smith, Ava Lapinskas, Logann Dukes, Mickel, a junior, sophomore Peyton Dukes and Rust in goal showed the cohesion they’ve developed throughout the season to become what Lapinskas argues is “the best in the state.”
“The defense is one of the most consistent parts on the field. If we can do our jobs and do it well, nobody can get through us,” Lapinskas said. “We’ve worked so well together, we’ve put in so much work over the course of the year and I’m so proud of us that we kept it a scoreless game.”
At this time last season, the Rapids ended their season with a third-place trophy at the state final four, a stage that nearly everyone was experiencing for the first time. Lapinskas, then a junior, was one of them.
“The second that we stepped off this field last year with our third place win, I was like, ‘we’re coming back here next year and getting this win,’ ” Lapinskas said. “I’m so proud of this team. It means so much to the seniors.”
This year’s senior class set the example of how to lead a team, following in the footsteps of older classes like the 2019 group. Soon, they will turn it over to the next group.
“What a way to go out,” Afenegus said. “When they were freshmen they saw those seniors lead and knew they wanted to get back to this point and be the drivers of the bus. … And they’re so close. Not only winning a state championship, but exiting the program and ending your career together, I think it means the world to them.”