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Friday, September 22, 2023
Sept. 22, 2023

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Defending state champion Camas girls soccer team gets back to work

Papermakers know they have lots to live up to after last year’s undefeated campaign

By , Columbian staff writer
3 Photos
Nora Melcher, right, of Camas flips a pass ahead to a teammate while being defended by Union's Ohu Miles on Tuesday at Doc Harris Stadium in Camas.
Nora Melcher, right, of Camas flips a pass ahead to a teammate while being defended by Union's Ohu Miles on Tuesday at Doc Harris Stadium in Camas. (Will Denner/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

CAMAS — More than a few Camas girls soccer players sported large ice packs after their game on Tuesday against Union, owing to the various knocks, bumps and bruises picked up during the rivalry game.

Much like previous matchups against Portland-area teams Jesuit, Grant, Tualatin and Lake Oswego, the Papermakers’ 2-0 win over the Titans at Doc Harris Stadium was the latest physical game they’ve faced during the opening month of the season.

So far, the defending Class 4A state champion has responded well to nearly all of those challenges.

“Our team fights to the end,” said Madeline Johnson, a senior defender and one of the Papermakers’ captains. “Any problem that we have, any injury, people still fight through it. It’s really cool to see and really inspiring. Even just for me, seeing other teammates pushing through everything is really inspiring for us.”

Camas is coming off an undefeated 2021 campaign that ended with a penalty kick shootout win over Issaquah in the 4A state title game.

The Papermakers opened this season on Sept. 6 against Jesuit and suffered a 2-1 loss, snapping a 35-game streak without a loss. Since then, they’ve won five of seven games with two ties, including wins over Skyview and Union to start 4A GSHL play. It’s a new group with different strengths, but their end goal remains the same, said Camas head coach Keri Tomasetti.

“They want to go back to the (state) final four. That’s an ultimate goal, always,” she said. “They are very realistic knowing it’s one game at a time, and they know that. So the focus is one game at a time, you have to take one team down before you can take down the next. And if they don’t do that, they don’t make it.”

One thing working in the Papermakers’ favor is continuity at certain positions paired with players stepping into larger roles as starters.

Center backs Johnson and Hannah Terry, both returning starters, have played on the same club team since they were 8 years old. Keely Wieczorek, a 4A all-state goalkeeper, made two crucial saves in last season’s state PK shootout to help Camas secure the title. They’ve been joined on the back line by Emme Nieto, a junior who got playing time as a substitute in last season’s playoff run, and senior Abby Doyle.

The Papermakers (5-1-2, 2-0 4A GSHL) already posted five shutouts, including the 2-0 win over Union, which included second-half goals from Parker Mairs and Bella Burns. The Papermakers also handed the Titans (5-1-2, 1-1) their first loss of the season and moved up to first place in the league standings through two games.

Union’s last win in the series came during the 2019 season when current seniors on each team were freshmen.

“It’s still very nerve-wracking, more so for the girls in this game because of the rivalry. It’s a little more amped up and a little more to it,” Tomasetti said.

Camas recognizes it has a lot to live up to by following last year’s team, but even with some inherent pressure being part of a program that’s won three state titles, players can also lean on each other for support. It’s part of a camaraderie the program has been fortunate to have year in, year out, Tomasetti said.

“Even the freshmen, the people who weren’t on varsity last year, it’s really good inspiration for them. It definitely pushes us to know what we can be,” Johnson said. “Some days (some have) bad days and it’s good to know that even one bad day, you can still do good and it’s good to know that your teammates are here to cheer you on.

“I love them so much, they’re so fun to play with. Even if you have something you need to talk to someone about, they’re always open to talk to you. Everyone’s always positive. It’s the best feeling ever, having a good team like that.”